Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin believe that a new superbly written and beautifully illustrated children’s book, Stories for Simon, has the power to make Australia a more tolerant society.
Written by Lisa Miranda Sarzin and illustrated by Lauren Briggs, the book tells the story of a carefree boy named Simon who learns about the Stolen Generations and the National Apology at school. Along with his classmates he struggles to understand how and why children were taken away from their families.
Simon meets an Indigenous elder who entrusts the story of her childhood to him. By hearing a first-hand account of her forced removal from her family, Simon gains a deep appreciation of what happened to the Stolen Generations.
The idea for the book germinated in February, 2008, at the time of the National Apology as non-Indigenous Australians and mothers of young children, Lisa and Lauren, thought deeply about the trauma of the forcible separations and the continuing pain of those affected by this government policy and action.
They asked themselves: ‘What does the apology mean to all Australians, and where to from here? What should we be teaching our children about the past and what it means for us?’ Lisa and Lauren decided to take these big issues and transform them into a story that children could readily grasp.
From the beginning Lisa and Lauren were privileged to have the guidance of well-known Bidjigal elder, Vic Simms. Vic was an inspiring mentor, ensuring that the text and illustrations were respectful of and sensitive to the subject matter.
"Lauren and I had many conversations with Vic about how important this book is in terms of bringing about greater understanding of our nation’s past and sharing a vision of hope for the future," Lisa says.
In Vic’s Foreword to the book, he states: "This story speaks of love and understanding and the coming together of two cultures. Unless this meeting of cultures starts in children’s minds, we can never have true reconciliation. I believe this book will generate interest, understanding and reconciliation for the future, starting with the minds of children and by telling a story that is seen through their innocent eyes."
When Goodes and O’Loughlin read Stories for Simon, they immediately loved it and wanted to support it. "The story resonates with us as we strongly support its message – one of understanding and remembering the past in order to create a brighter future for all Australians. In this way the GO Foundation and the message of the book are very much aligned," they said.
Since the publication of the book earlier this month, it has been met with an enthusiastic response from children and parents, as well as teachers and librarians.
Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, said: ‘If we want our libraries to contain books that represent our history and culture, then we need more books like Stories for Simon. This book is an important and welcome addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere. It will provoke important conversations between parents and children, in classrooms and throughout the community."
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, said "accompanied by strong, dynamic and unique illustrations which support the text, this is a story of reconciliation and hope for the future, with a stunning ending that is just perfect."