Wednesday, 1 April 2015

John Dillon visits Wiradjuri Preschool to share Maria books

While recently visiting Australia, Ms Freda Wantum, ACIAR John Dillon Fellow from Papua New Guinea and Canberra’s own Dr Barbara Pamphilon, project leader of the ‘liklik bisnis thinking’ women’s project in PNG visited the Wiradjuri Preschool Centre at the University of Canberra.

The visit was just one of the many activities that took place as part of the John Dillon fellowship tour of Canberra in March and was a chance to share the ‘Maria’s Family’ book series with a group of Australian kids.

Freda reading to the pre-school students. Source: Andy Heaney

While at the centre, Freda spent time talking with the children about life in Papua New Guinea and the way that families work together to grow and sell produce to support their communities. She also talked about how important education is for both kids and their parents in PNG.

Freda and Barbara then read Maria’s Family goes to market, to a group of enthusiastic preschool girls and boys, both in English and also in Pidgin. The kids were very interested to hear Freda speaking in Pidgin and also to find out about the different way of life for children living in rural villages in PNG.

Lots of questions were asked about the types of vegetables described in the story, raising quite a discussion amongst the group about the kinds of things you might find growing in the average Canberra veggie patch. One little girl even offered the comment of the day “On the weekend I patted two dogs”.

Freda Wantum and Barbara Pamphilon read to Maria book to eager pre-school students in Canberra. Source: Andy Heaney

The “Maria’s Family” books were developed as part of an ACIAR-funded project on women’s business acumen in Papua New Guinea. Initial research found women farmers in the highlands and East New Britain were making simple mistakes in marketing their produce, and almost all were not budgeting for their agricultural and families’ futures.

Maria's family book cover

Rural women also identified a lack of basic literacy was limiting their economic and social opportunities (including stopping them from engaging in training). These were the drivers of the creation of the “Maria’s Family” books. Their aim is to teach key agricultural messages to women smallholders; help mothers engage in reading activities with their children; and develop literacy skills for both mothers and children.

By Andy Heaney, External Engagement and Media Presence Manager, ACIAR

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