To help our kids learn more about First Nations cultures and connect to Country this NAIDOC Week, we have compiled a list of incredible books that have previously been shortlisted for the Karajia Award for Children's Literature.

The Karajia Award celebrates and recognises the important message of First Nations authors and illustrators, who share stories exploring land, community, culture and language. 

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The authors in one of many shortlists include former Olympian Cathy Freeman, globally renowned Indigenous pop star Isaiah Firebrace, and seven other incredible contenders.

Here are the nine shortlisted books you need to add to your kid's library this NAIDOC Week.

1. The Heart of the Land by Cathy Freeman, Coral Vass and Tannya Harricks.

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The Heartbeat of the Land is a story for kids aged three and up about Cathy who runs barefoot across the great ancient land of Australia, hearing its heartbeat under her feet, until one day she hears a cry.

2. Come Together by Isaiah Firebrace and Jaelyn Biumaiwai.

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A debut picture book for children aged five and up from pop artist Isaiah Firebrace, inspired by his petition to the Australian Government calling for Aboriginal history to be taught in every classroom.

Isaiah, a Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara man, establishes a foundation of First Nations knowledge with 20 key topics. Alongside bright and contemporary illustrations by Mununjali and Fijian artist Jaelyn Biumaiwai, Isaiah connects us to each topic through his own personal story and culture, from the importance of Elders to the Dreaming.

3. Ninni Yabini by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Tyrown Waigana.

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Written in Noongar and English, and illustrated with striking contemporary artwork, Ninni Yabini is a memorable celebration of family and belonging.

In this delightful picture book, Mother and Father swan are busy rebuilding their nest after a storm when their baby, Ninni Yabini, wanders off. Luckily, the evening star, his namesake, comes out to guide him home.

4. The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale by Aunty Shaa Smith and Yandaarra.

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The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale is both a beautiful picture book and a special resource that will connect children to the landscape of the mid-north NSW coast, as well as to the unique stories of the Gumbaynggirr people.

Author Aunty Shaa welcomes readers to Ngambaa Country on the mid-north coast of New South Wales and tells the story of the Koala Brothers, the Dunggiirr Brothers. 

 5. Our Dreaming by Kirli Saunders and Dub Leffler.

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A story about the Dreaming, as the Elders told it to the book's authors: award-winning storytellers Gunai woman Kirli Saunders and Bigambul man Dub Leffler. The pair explore a deep love and respect for Country and all her spirits, past, present and beyond.

6. Looking after Country with Fire by Victor Steffensen and Sandra Steffensen.

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Looking After Country with Fire is a picture book for five- to 10-year-olds that demonstrates respect for Indigenous knowledge, following the success of Victor Steffensen's bestselling adult book Fire Country.

Join Uncle Kuu as he takes us out on Country and explains cultural burning. Featuring artwork by Sandra Steffensen, this is a powerful and timely story of understanding Australia's ecosystems through Indigenous fire management, and a respectful way forward for future generations to help manage our landscapes.

7. Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth by Melissa Greenwood.

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From Gumbaynggirr artist Melissa Greenwood, of mother-daughter art and design label Miimi and Jiinda, comes a deeply felt and heart-stirring picture book about the connection between mothers, babies and Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth.

8. We Are Australians by Duncan Smith, Nicole Godwin and Jandamarra Cadd.

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We Are Australians looks into the topics of citizenship and the role of Australia’s First Nations people. The poetic writing style creates a rich and respectful text, and the bright colours add a joyfulness and a sense of celebration. 

The use of traditional First Nations techniques reinforces the longevity and importance of a culture that has lived on Australian land for over 65,000 years.

9. Open your Heart to Country by Jasmine Seymour.

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Open Your Heart to Country is a bilingual story of healing and belonging.

Told in English and Dharug, Open Your Heart to Country is a moving account of re-connection to Country from a First Nations perspective. Sharing the nourishing power of returning home and being immersed in the language of Country, this picture book invites readers to reflect on the importance of place, not only for First Nations’ peoples but for everyone.

This article was originally published in 2023, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Supplied / Mamamia.

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