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May 31, 2023

Australian Children’s Storytelling Parliamentary Friends launch

The inaugural Australian Children’s Storytelling Parliamentary Friends event took place at Parliament House last Wednesday 24 May, with over 300 MPs, Senators, staffers, and special guests in attendance. 

The Parliamentary Friends group was established by co-chairs Mr Luke Gosling, OAM, MP and the Hon Warren Entsch MP to provide a forum for parliamentarians to meet and interact with industry bodies across books, theatre, screen and music to discuss matters relating to Australian children’s storytelling. The co-chairs announced the new group saying, “We share the view that Australian children are inspired by storytelling that reflects their own culture on screen and in books, theatre, and music.”

Given the focus on local creators set out in the National Cultural Policy, it was fabulous to be part of a cross-industry event, showcasing the brilliance – and connectedness – of our creators across the literature, screen and music sectors. Children’s author Nat Amoore was the emcee for the evening, and emphasised the importance of supporting local literature, saying, “Tonight is really important to our story telling future. We need to develop and support Australian IP with legislation that makes sure children see themselves reflected in our books, songs, screen content and stories to build a sense of pride in Australia’s unique culture.

Like many kids from my era, I was brought up on a diet of books by Enid Blyton, Roahl Dahl, C.S. Lewis etc. Not only did I wonder why my lunchbox never contained kippers or jam buns but I never even considered that being an author was a possible career for me because clearly you had to be British, American, or, well quite frankly, dead.

It wasn’t until I discovered my very first Paul Jennings book and on the 37th reading of it, happened across a bio that mentioned not only was he Australian, but he lived on the Mornington Peninsula. Where I lived! Suddenly a career as an author seemed tangible, achievable. And here I am. This right here is the impact of Australian voices in Children’s Storytelling. A future.”

The night’s celebrations included a performance by Australian musician Dan Sultan, as well as The Wiggles, who played alongside the parliamentary band featuring Tony Burke, Luke Gosling and Graham Perett. “There was probably a bit more distortion than a Wiggles show would normally have, but we describe ourselves as the greatest pub rock band in the entire Federal Parliament,” quipped Minister Burke. 

Our warm thanks to all the brilliant authors who attended this event as ambassadors for children’s literature: Nat Amoore, Susannah Crispe, Adam Duncan, Jack Heath, Amelia McInerney, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Krys Saclier, Samantha Tidy, Cate Whittle, and Rhian Williams. Thank you for attending, for speaking to guests about the need to support local Australian stories, and even conducting an impromptu storytime!

Our thanks also to the Australian Publishers Association for arranging over 350 Australian children’s books to be gifted to attendees on the evening and to Copyright Agency for their support of the event. 

We will continue to communicate to Government the importance of supporting local Australian stories, including by calling for a  greater number of Australian-authored books in our schools and libraries