My ancestors are from within the Canberra region. We trace back to my great-great-great-grandfather, Black Harry Williams, also known as Ngoobra, who’s in a few of these stories. We trace our ancestry to the Canberra plains, Ngambri and Ngunnawal country.
We had the opportunity to draw these books, most of them are from the younger generation – so I guess my father’s generation – his grandchildren or great nephews and nieces, we had the opportunity to pick a family story and get to draw them. One of them is a really important story for our family and a famous one, it was when my great-great-great-grandfather, Black Harry, or Ngoobra, who they talk about in these books, he was about 12 years old and he was out playing with a few of his mates, and he saw a dhalagarr – which is the Australian yowie or hairy man, and he saw a couple of Aboriginal warriors from a neighbouring tribe kill it and then bury it in a cave. And he went and reported it to the Queanbeyan Age at this time and you can see the actual article there. This is a story that’s travelled down through generations something that we hold on to, and has been created and changed a little bit to make one of these children’s stories. The other one that I drew was about Onyong and Noolup, which I illustrated. One of them, Onyong, was a Ngambri warrior, and the other one, Noolup, was a Ngurmal warrior, and they grew up as childhood friends. I think the story goes, and its not in this children’s book, that later on they had a falling out and one them is responsible for the other one’s death. This was sort of around the generation, when they were growing up, when the early settlers were moving to the Canberra region, and around the time my great-great-great-grandfather, Black Harry, was born. He would’ve been around this time with these two men when they were older men.
When I completed these illustrations I was in year 9, I would’ve been around 14 years old so it was a really great opportunity for me at that age to get to draw these books, these stories, that were part of my family and early documented histories from this region. There’ll always be there, and they will be stories for them to read and learn, and hopefully further on down the track we can do something similar for the next generation.