Biripi man Adam Duncan debuts First Nations picture book, The Bunyip and the Stars

National Museum’s Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre inspires children’s book series

First Nations storytelling and mythology are showcased in an enchanting new children’s book The Bunyip and the Stars from debut author and Biripi man, Adam Duncan, launched today at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Exploring diverse themes such as the importance of family bonds, connection to Country and the value of shared knowledge, the book is the first in a series of five picture books featuring stories from Australia inspired by the National Museum’s new immersive play space for children – the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre.

The story is illuminated through striking 3D collage-style illustrations by Paul Lalo of Melbourne-based animation boutique, Soymilk Studio, the same studio who developed the illustrations of the characters and animals found in the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre.

The next in the 5-book series, How the Kangaroo Got It’s Pouch by author Rebecca Beetson, will be released by the National Museum in time for Christmas this year, with books 3 and 4 to follow in 2024 and book 5 in a limited box set in 2025.

The picture books reinforce the National Museum’s commitment to storytelling of all kinds, for visitors of all ages. They are designed to encourage conversations around themes including First Nations culture, place, identity and Australian history in an age-appropriate and inspiring way.

National Museum acting director Ruth Wilson thanked Adam Duncan for his creative storytelling and Paul Lalo for his wonderful illustrations.

‘The creativity, knowledge and care Adam has shown with this book is to be commended. I thank him for his efforts in bringing to life some of the characters central to both First Nations mythology and the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre,’ Ms Wilson said.

‘The illustrations are striking and sure to capture the imagination of children immersed in this story,’ Ms Wilson said.

A combination of a Sky Country creation story and an exciting adventure tale, The Bunyip and the Stars follows Ngariin (Big Sister) as she searches for Wumbirr (Little Brother), who has been captured by the fearsome bunyip.

Ngariin needs to draw on her knowledge of her Country, the bush and mob stories to rescue Wumbirr and escape the bunyip.

Author Adam Duncan said he developed the book using First Nations oral storytelling traditions and the help of the children from Wiradjuri Preschool and Child Care Centre at the University of Canberra, where he works.

‘I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to make my story, known and loved by hundreds of young people with whom I’ve worked over the last decade, available to a much broader audience. This book is culturally significant, as it represents a continuation of Biripi cultural practice, and I am so glad to have been involved,’ Mr Duncan said.

Illustrator Paul Lalo said he was delighted to be asked to illustrate the vivid story.

‘I had a wonderful experience working with the National Museum on the illustrations for the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre and the short animation that represents the Bunyip and the Stars in it, so translating this animation into still images made a lot of sense. I hope the illustrations help connect readers to the story in a powerful way,’ Mr Lalo said.

Manager of the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre at the National Museum, Carlie Walker, said she was thrilled to see the diverse themes and characters found in the space being featured in the series.

‘The books will build on the innovative narrative approach used in the Discovery Centre. Five unique Australian stories engage children and their carers during their visits to the centre’s play and learn space and the book series will extend this experience into homes and classrooms,’ Ms Walker said.

The Bunyip and the Stars is published by National Museum of Australia Press and is now available online from the Museum Shop.

Other authors set to contribute to the series include First Nations debut authors Rebecca Beetson and Lala Gutchen and award-winning children’s book writers Jackie Hosking and Ursula Dubosarsky.


About the author

  • Adam Duncan is a Biripi man whose family and ancestors were traditional custodians of lands in the Manning River region of New South Wales.
  • He was born in Campbelltown on Tharawal Country and grew up in Bathurst on the land of the Wiradjuri people.
  • He lives and works on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country as a visual artist, cultural education consultant and preschool teacher at Wiradjuri Preschool at the University of Canberra.
  • He developed The Bunyip and the Stars using First Nations oral storytelling traditions and the help of the Wiradjuri Preschool Children.

About the illustrator

  • Paul Lalo was born in France and arrived in Australia in 2004 to study animation at the Queensland College of Art.
  • He has worked as a director, animator and motion designer for TV commercials, music videos and documentaries.
  • He is co-founder of Melbourne-based animation boutique Soymilk Studio, which specialises in stop-motion and motion design.

About the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre

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