Transcript of Author’s talk with Jasmine Seymour video

A transcript of the video Author’s talk with Jasmine Seymour.

Transcript

Jasmine Seymour

Hello. Good morning. [foreign language 00:00:00:02] Budyari naaami gawi Darug nura. Good to see you from here on Darug country. Ngaya Jasmine Burubiranggal Darug Dalang. I am Jasmine from the Kangaroo people of the Richmond area from the Sydney Basin. I acknowledge that I'm hosting this book reading from the lands of my ancestors, the Darug people. I also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians upon which you all work today and I pay my respects to elders past, present, and future. I extend that respect to other Aboriginal people joining us today. Welcome to the book reading.

So, today, I'm going to be talking to you a little bit about my family and the reason why I wrote Baby Business. And then I'm going to read you Baby Business. So, I'm going to introduce you to my family first. So, this is my family tree. In the top corner, we have an artist impression made by Leanne Tobin, one of the Burubiranggal descendants, of Maria Lock. Now, Maria Lock is my five-times great grandmother and she was the first Aboriginal woman to go to the Native Institute. And she graduated at the top of her class. She was amazing and her legacy is that she had 10 children who had 10 children, so there were thousands of Darug descendants who live on country today because of Maria. She, way back before Mabo happened, she advocated to the government to give her land because they promised her land. And she wrote this amazing letter in English that I'm sure some of us would have trouble trying to replicate today, advocating for herself and her people. She is absolutely amazing.

Now, her granddaughter, Hannah Lock, is my great, great grandmother. She lived out near the McGrath's Hill pub, just behind there in the Hawkesbury. And her granddaughter, my Nana, Laurel Douglas, lived in Morelia with her family on the country that I grew up on. And then we have my dad, my beautiful dad, Steven Douglas Simo, and my mom who is Dutch. Now, as you can see, I look like my mom, but I've never been to Holland. I don't know any of the language. I don't have any connection, really, to Holland. I've grown up on Darug country, brought up by these people, my Darug family. I am very much an Aboriginal person. And so, that is the story out here in the Hawkesbury, that even though we might not look like we did hundreds of years ago, we are still very much Aboriginal.

This is the legacy of living in the Hawkesbury. And so, when I grew up, my Nana taught us how to dig up these little yams in our backyard, all along the Deerubun, the Hawkesbury river. You can dig up these beautiful little native parsnips and they taste like a sweet almond, but they're also kind of peppery. We would pick geebungs and Dad would teach us to run your hands along the flowers and make drinks from it and we would also eat lots of warrigal greens. And this was very normal for us to be doing this.

So, who are the Darug people? Well, the Darug people are people of the Sydney basin area. And sometimes, we get called Eora, the coastal people, and sometimes we get called inland Darug, but the whole language group is the Darug language group. It is a massive area and Bennelong, Barangaroo and Pemulwuy, they were all our people and they're amazing they deserve to be celebrated. We have such strong connection to country through their legacy and I think we need to be celebrating their stories even more than we do now.

So, the Darug people are connected to Mount Yengo. Yengo is on the central coast, on Darkinjung Country. Mount Yengo, for everyone who doesn't know, is as important to us as Uluru. It is this amazing place with cultural significance and spirituality that extends all the way down the East coast. And we have our beautiful Hawkesbury river, which some people know as the secret river or what we call Dyiruban. And the Dyiruban is this incredible place that the first settlers traveled up and they looked out and they saw the farmland and they thought, "This is such an amazing place." And we don't actually hear the stories of the first Australians, the Darug people, who lived on country. Now, I've had the opportunity with Grace Karskens to be part of a research program where we were mapping the original Aboriginal names to settlers farms on the Hawkesbury.

And part of this research that we did, we found out that the Hawkesbury ... there's a place at Sackville where, Gurangaty, our version of the rainbow serpent was sleeping. It was laying. And you can see in this picture, if you go to this place, it actually looks like a big eel head resting on Country. And, one of the names we found was called Dorumbolooa, and that meant path of the rainbow. As you can see from this picture on, on the Dyiruban, this gorgeous rainbow, if you were an Aboriginal person living there and you saw this, it looks like a huge eel eye. It's absolutely stunning.

And so, part of this project has started doing lots of art, responding to country. This is ... Sydney has some of the most amazing rock arts. We have a culture that is vibrant and it's just so beautiful. And I think we forget that when we think about Aboriginal Australia, we forget to think about the place that we're actually on. And if we investigate a bit more, we actually find out that it is very diverse and just as incredible as anywhere else. And so, some of these pictures I was doing in response to this research come from the rock engravings. And that led me to start drawing pictures and thinking about what our ceremonies might look like on Country. At the time, the Darug Custodian Aboriginal corporation, some of their members were having grandchildren and we were talking about smoking ceremonies and what that might look like. And that led me to draw this picture of this woman, holding a baby over the smoke on country.

And so, why did I write Baby Business? Well, I showed that picture to a friend who said, "Oh, that would make an amazing book." And I started to think about what that would look like for us in a contemporary setting. Because we know that Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal people are continuously practicing culture and we do that all the time. It might not look like it did hundreds of years ago, but we still practice it in contemporary settings. And I really wanted this book to be a view, a look, into what that might look like on Darug country. And so, the idea was celebrated by Magabala books, then it ended up being published. And so now, I'm going to read you my book, Baby Business.

Yanna, with Nana to the smoking place. Aunties talk about the old ways ... say long ago when they were born, the Wianga now would have done a smoking. For the smoking, we need paperbarks, termite mud and green leaves. The leaves, are special healing plants that protect children from becoming sick. Our mob are here, just the women and children. All are here to help, this is baby business. The smoke will get rid of bad spirits. Today, is a beginning and teaches us our first lesson in law. Warm smoke from the fire on your feet to connect you to Country. Warm smoke from the fire on your chest, keep your mudjin and country close to your heart. Care for Country as it cares for you.

Warm smoke from the fire on your hands, take what you need and no more. Give back what you can and help your mudjin and nura when they need it. Warm smoke from the fire on your mouth. Keep our language on your tongue. Our words are the song of our ancestors and show the pathway to Dreaming. Warm smoke from the fire on your ears, from your totem, the bee. In Dreaming, before you were born, I heard the song, the bees. You must always care for your totem and do it no harm. Gurung, the smoking is over. Let your life begin on nura.

Remember, that it does not belong to us. We belong to country.

And that is the simple and beautiful message of baby business. I've also written another book called 'Cooee Mittigar', and illustrated a picture book that has just been released called family. I think for me, baby business ... the colors and the landscape, that's my experience of being on country with my Nana. And very time I opened that, I just get a really big sense of being with my grandmother on country. We used to love to light fires and keep the place really beautiful. So, I hope you have enjoyed the reading today and you have learnt something a little bit about Darug people, and now I'm going to open it to you to see if you have any questions.

Speaker 2

I have a question, can you hear me?

Jasmine Seymour

Yes, I can.

Speaker 2

Was there a particular reason why you used the words "warm smoke" repetitively? Was that ... Was there an intention for that? What made you do that?

Jasmine Seymour

I think it's just the part of ceremony. So, as you're repeating, it's just sort of like a ... and it just sounded really good. So, I just really liked the way that it sounded and to have the smoke, as you're holding the baby over, you'd be saying, "Warm smoke" or "Smoke from the fire" as you're doing it. Like a little incantation almost. Yeah. Thank you.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

There's a question in the chat from Erin asking how long the book took you to write?

Jasmine Seymour

The book actually ... every picture in the book was done on one water color background, and I used an app called Procreate to make it. And so, I actually started with the pictures first because I had a really, really big visual image of what I wanted it to look like. And then I created the words and so all up, it actually didn't take me that long because the story sort of told itself. This is a story really about values as well, and so once I started, it was actually very quick it only took me about a month.

What inspired me to create the story? I think it was the experience with being on country and having so many of my friends, having grandchildren. And seeing other people having smoking ceremonies on country and also the kids at the school that I teach in ... we have a lot of Aboriginal kids here and I wanted them to be celebrated. I wanted them to be able to celebrate their culture. This is our culture, very much our culture. So ... and I felt that there wasn't enough books about indigenous kids and certainly not enough that showed us being normal and doing things in a cultural way.

Speaker 4

Thank you so much for that lovely story. I just love the simplicity of the language actually, and the imagery and that those of us and our children that are non-Aboriginal, can very easily digest that cultural message and the value message. And I'm very grateful and I hope you do produce many more books of a similar nature, I think it's right for the education of our children. Thank you.

Jasmine Seymour

Oh, thank you so much. Thank you very much. I hope so too. I hope we see more and more. I feel like we don't get to see Aboriginal kids riding bikes in books I want to see that. I really want to see lots of books about Aboriginal kids just doing normal everyday things.

Speaker 6

It sounds like you've got a wide variety of people here. I'm a uni student listening on from Western Sydney Uni, or it seems you've got some teachers from schools listening. That's really good.

Jasmine Seymour

Thank you. Yeah, it does, so thank you everyone for joining. And thanks everyone for getting behind it. It's had such an incredible response, Baby Business, and I know particularly in early childhood in the preschools, they have really, really loved it. So, thank you very much to all the preschool people who have got behind the book.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

I've got a question from Ms. Pescoli from stage three. "Do your artworks reflect your family life and experience?"

Jasmine Seymour

Great question. Well, they do, very much. Like I said, those images are of me walking with my grandmother on country, in baby business. That is very evocative of whatever it is like to live out on Morelia, next to the creeks. And definitely the other outworks that I make is all in response to country and inspired by the artwork made by my ancestors. So, Thank you.

I have another question from a Stage 2 class from Ms. Plumber, "Do I still incorporate my Aboriginal heritage into my life today? And when I was growing up, what was m favorite thing to do in the Bush?" Well, actually my favorite thing to do in the Bush was to clear country with my Nana. We would often have a little fire on her property and we'd be looking after the place by clearing it. And we'd also be digging up and playing with all the Bush foods. So, just being out on country and we're so lucky here in Sydney. It's such a beautiful place. Thank you.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

Jasmine, I had a bit of a question about the use of the Darug words in the book and also in Cooee Mittaga, you use a lot of, and share a lot of, Darug words. And as a non-Aboriginal person and as a mother of a child who's not Aboriginal, I was wondering how you feel about ... because I've been using it to try and encourage my child to learn some of the words. And I was wondering if you could talk a bit about how that might work for non-Aboriginal families. Whether it's appropriate that we should encourage it or how do you feel about it?

Jasmine Seymour

Yeah, absolutely. I'm currently doing a master's degree in Indigenous language education, and I'm really hopeful that we'll see in Sydney, Darug language being taught in primary schools. So, Darug ... when we talk about languages that are not in use, we say that they are sleeping. Darug culture ... well, the Darug people were disrupted, but we're still here and the language can be brought back.

And so, I'm just filled with hope and I hear that people are using language because I really believe that language is part of reconciliation. When we all know the language of Country, we really get to connect to it. And I'm really hopeful that in Australia, we will see us becoming a multilingual society like we should be. And we all know a little bit about Australian languages because they're fascinating. There was nothing more interesting than learning about the country that you live on by learning the Aboriginal names. I'm very passionate about it I really hope that access is just getting better for all people.

Speaker 7

I want to ask the question, as well. Do you use the same artistic kind of style in your other books, like this book? Do you carry the same sort of art themes, like with your colors or your pictures, or ...?

Jasmine Seymour

I really love to do block printing and jelly board art, which is a form of a block printing. And I love watercolor and my favorite children book artists are Alison Lester and Bob Graham. And I love how they draw kids and how they draw families. That really appeals to me. When I first started doing this, the publisher said to me that you would have ... when you're writing, you become a person. And the person that I am, I think he's a six year old who ... and I love to see sweetness in people's faces. And so, I hope that in my books, the people you see that sort of innocence and that experience of being a child where everyone looks sort of shiny and beautiful and have that really big sense of belonging to a family.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

I can see there's some questions in the chat about whether or not maybe you participated in a smoking ceremony when you were a baby or ... and some further questions about the tradition being currently practiced.

Jasmine Seymour

Yeah. Well, the tradition is practiced all over Australia and in various forms on different countries. I know the Darug people do it and lots of people do it in contemporary ways. And I have been to a smoking ceremony and they are just fabulous. Lots of communities have been doing it for community members and then opening it up to the wider community as sort of a encompassing sort of idea that we all belong to country. Aboriginal people are so generous in their welcomes to countries and making people feel like they belong. The smoke is about smelling like country. It's about country recognizing that you're from here, that you belong here. And so I think that there are amazing things that we get to share with people like we do on our days of celebrations, when we have smoking ceremonies for other celebrations. Yeah. Thank you.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

And there's some further questions there about whether your own family participate in cultural practices like this, and then a question about who you're inspired by.

Jasmine Seymour

Yeah, so did my immediate family do a baby smoking on me? No, they didn't. They didn't do one like that. But like I said, it is something that is coming back. Now, my family, they often say about the Darug people that we were the first colonized and we are the last recognized. All of the effects of colonization happened to the Sydney basin people first. So, we lost our language, they lost lots of their culture. And so lots of those practices were hidden and kept sacred because they didn't want to be known that they were actually Aboriginal. And so, now we have this situation where in Australia, was starting to become very proud about Aboriginal history and that is something that everyone should embrace because it's an incredible thing that we belong to here. Because 65,000 years plus and counting of continuous cultural connection. And so, even if we haven't been practicing it the way it looked long ago, it is still very much part of our being.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

Thank you for sharing that Jasmine. There's a question here about some people in our department in working in the secondary space and they said, they'll be using your book for their child studies and were wondering what your message would be to their students about the significance of identity when they share this story?

Jasmine Seymour

There's some ... I think ... Sometimes I see Aboriginal kids sort of fall into themselves when you talk to them. I hope that my book is book allows kids to have a really big sense of pride in themselves. There is nothing more wonderful than being an Aboriginal person. Despite everything, we are the most resilient and adaptive people you could find. We really need to advocate that this is ... it's incredible. This history that we all share and so for kids in secondary school, we need messages that show that we're still here, that we're still practicing culture. That it's not about the past because when we have everything in the past, you're saying that happened then, but it is always happening. So, I think for secondary schools for them to just be really proud of the practices that their aunties and uncles and whatever form that they are to celebrate them.

Cherie Stephenson

I think one of the ultimate message in the book about [inaudible 00:26:25] We don't own the country, the country is, is greater than us.

Jasmine Seymour

Mm-hm.

Cherie Stephenson

If every child that was born in the world had a smoking ceremony like that, or went on their way knowing that message, I wonder if many of our environmental issues might fade into the distance. And I think that's something quite significant. It's beyond ... the message is beyond even the Aboriginal culture, it's something we all need to consider going forward, so hopefully...

Jasmine Seymour

Yeah, I completely agree. We're at a sort of point, at the moment, where we've got to really think about what we're doing. And I think Indigenous knowledge about looking after Country was so sophisticated and so important. When I grew up ... when I was a child in primary school, we weren't taught anything like that.

And so for the kids today, you're so lucky, and it's so wonderful to see you all growing up learning how to do Acknowledgements of Country to really consider the place upon which you live and how it looks after you every day, because we don't actually acknowledge that, that the place that we live in is caring for us continuously. When I drive to work and I go past places and I know the Aboriginal names, I send out a little message and say, "Hello," and "Thank you," and show gratitude for just caring for me. And I think we've really got to embrace that and I think we're we're starting to get better at it.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

There's a further question: Caitlin who is in Year 9, wanted to know a bit more about the inspiration for the title of the book?

Jasmine Seymour

Well, when we were sort of throwing around ideas about the name for the book, we ... the people at Magabala actually chose the name and it's sort of a play on women's business and men's business. And so, that this is baby business, the smoking, the welcoming of a child to Country. This is a children's business almost, it's very special and so that's why the name was chosen.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

And I think there's a further question from Ms. Plumber's class. You said earlier that you ... when you're a kid growing up with your Dad, he was showing you traditional foods. And they wanted to know if you still eat traditional foods from the Bush.

Jasmine Seymour

Certainly when I go out on Bush, I will ... we will eat some. They're not really readily available though, so if I'm out on Country, we do still eat them and they're there, wherever you see them ready for you to pick. But I also have to say to any kids that you should be very, very careful about eating any Bush foods. You really need to know what you're doing, so I don't recommend that you do it without an adult.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

I think we might've come to the end of the questions, Jasmine.

Jasmine Seymour

No worries. Thank you so much, everyone for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for loving Baby Business and I hope you read my other books "Cooee Mittigar" and "Family". And I hope there are more to come. And I think Aboriginal education is everyone's business and we need our executives, our principals, we need everyone to get behind it because we walk together in this and I'm really hopeful that things are just getting better and better.

Melissa Hamblin Biggs

Thank you, Jasmine. Thank you so much for agreeing to present to us today. I'm sure we've all learned a lot I know we all enjoyed the book. It was beautiful hearing the author, it was such a lovely work, presenting it to us and showing us ... I guess, telling us a bit more about the creative process and your thoughts and observations around everything, Baby Business. It's been an absolute pleasure listening to you, again, thank you so much for agreeing to share with us. We all appreciate it.

Jasmine Seymour

Thank you so much. Have a great day, yanu, everyone.

End of transcript.

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