The other week I attended my first national CBCA conference. Not only was it attended by some of the children’s literary world royalty such as Leigh Hobbs, Morris Gleitzman, Susanne Gervay, Bruce Pascoe and so many more but there were librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, agents and anyone who has a stake in Australian children’s literature.
With around 400 conference and trade delegates it was a perfect forum for networking and having enough time to spend quality time discussing the core and important aspects of children’s’ literature. For me, the overwhelming feeling was the mood of change, the sense of a new era. CBCA certainly an established body yet is clearly seeking to be present and relevant in today’s social climate.
Hearing advocates from the queer community talk about the past and current attitudes and what is needed to promote equality was brilliant. The LGBQTIA+ community needs supporters and supporters from every corner. The concept of ‘own voice’ is vital in narratives and artistic expression and this subject was carried through in terms of discussion about first nations representation in children’s literature.
As someone who has moved to Australia in recent times, I am still learning about the shocking history of abuse and human rights crimes committed against Australians. It is hard to conceive that one human would think their ways and cultures are the ‘right’ way.
Or is it? With global and national news slapping us in the face again and with stories of discrimination I wonder have we really committed to casting off old ways and ideas. It only takes a glance in the papers to read about ongoing Syrian oppression, to hear on the radio of the devastatingly high rates of self harm and suicide in ‘off-shore refugee holding centres’ (that title – please – can we just say prison camp?) and to see evidence of bullying in sports as in the case of Adam Goodes to make me shudder at what on earth we have learned.
Thanks to opportunities for connecting with thinkers, promoters and educators all seeking to enhance children’s lives through literature we can all reflect on our own part to play. For me – a proud woman of mixed heritage and cultural background I have come away from the CBCA’s conference reaffirmed in my resolve to make a difference to children’s lives and to do this through my writing which aims to give voice to the marginalised, the unheard and the hidden voices in our communities. I look forward to sharing some of my new book projects with you soon as they reach their final stage of publication in the next few months.