A children’s book about an annual trip to Victoria’s high country to feast on Bogong moths is introducing an Aboriginal language that has not been spoken fluently since the 19th century into schools and kindergartens in the state’s north-east.
Bijil Ba Wudhi Deberra: Bijil and Moths is the first book written for children in Taungurung and English. With a grant from the Murrindindi Council, the book’s author, Aunty Loraine Padgham, has provided copies to 45 kindergartens and primary schools.
“We need to develop resources to talk to the kids about language in a meaningful way,” Padgham, a Taungurung elder, told The Age.
The annual moth harvest, which, according to recent archaeological evidence, goes back at least 2000 years, provided First Nations people who lived near the high country with the occasion for ceremony and trade.
“It was a widespread activity during summer because it was cooler up there and the moths were delicious,” Padgham said.
“It wasn’t just Taungurung – it was Gunaikurnai, Woiwurrung. It was a trading opportunity, an opportunity for marriage ceremonies or to go up there and see family members they haven’t seen for the past year,” Padgham said.
Bogong moths are high in fat and were prepared in a number of ways, from cooking on a fire to grinding down into a protein-rich paste, which was roasted in cakes or smoked to preserve it for weeks ahead.
The idea for the book came to Padgham during Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns, and it was at first just an exercise to practice translating simple sentences into Taungurung. It quickly developed into a comic, drawn by Padgham’s husband, and published in a newsletter by the Taungurung Land and Water Council.
Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald