Respect and Family – written by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson

There’s a beautiful line in Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson’s book, family that says, ‘Connecting to ancestors, to who we are, to who we will be.’

For me it encapsulated the beauty and meaning in this book and also the first book in their ‘Place’ series, respect.

Respect and family are simply and beautifully told hard cover picture books depicting the lives and beliefs of our First Nations’ people. They reflect the connection to country and to each other, and the connections within ourselves.

Family is stunningly illustrated by Darug writer, artist and teacher, Jasmine Seymour. The wonderful illustrations in respect were created by Lisa Kennedy, a descendent of coastal Trawlwoolway people of north-east Tasmania.

These tender, thoughtful stories remind us of the importance of respecting others and ourselves and celebrating family. They show us the things to be learned from the past and from finding connections to who we really are.

Each carefully chosen word earns its place on the page, and the beautiful illustrations encapsulate the colour, beauty and natural environment of our country. They show us how family and place make us whole.

Respect and family are the first two books in the ‘Place’ series, published by Magabala Books, introducing young minds to First Nations’ cultural philosophies that Aunty Fay Muir, a Boon Wurrung Elder holds close to her heart.

Evocative, rich in colour and lyrical text, these books are a great way to introduce readers of all ages to First Nations’ culture. They introduce a code and way of life that we can all live by.

Respect comes with fabulous teacher’s notes with links to the Australian Curriculum. These beautiful books belong in every Australian school and home.

We’re very privileged to have Aunty Fay and Sue visiting DeeScribe Writing today to talk about their beautiful new books and Sue shares her tips about collaborating.


Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson in conversation. Photo credit – Geelong Regional Libraries

Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir is an Elder and Traditional Owner of Boon Wurrung Country. She is the senior linguist at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages in Melbourne. Fay is working with her own Boon Wurrung language, recording and putting language into the database for future and present generations. She presents language-related workshops to community members who are reclaiming their languages, as well as universities and TAFEs interested in understanding the many and challenging aspects of language reclamation. She also visits schools to educate students about language and culture and to teach language. Nganga is her first children’s book.

Sue Lawson  is an award-winning author who is passionate about encouraging young people’s love of writing and reading.

Her books are recognized for the sensitive way they explore the exciting and heartbreaking complexities of adolescence. Sue’s books have won the Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature and have been short-listed for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards.

The books that she creates  with Boonwurrung Elder, Aunty Fay Muir,  celebrate and explore Australia’s First Nations Peoples’ rich culture and history.

Sue Lawson’s books are recognized for the sensitive way they explore the exciting and heartbreaking complexities of adolescence. Her books include the award-winning Freedom Ride, and picture book, Respect, co-written with Boon Wurrung Elder, Aunty Fay Muir. Fay and Sue create books that celebrate and explore Australia’s First Nations Peoples’ rich culture and history.


  1. What inspired you to write these books?

Fay and I spent time with our publisher, Maryann Ballantyne, talking about a picture book that would celebrate First Nations’ culture and introduce aspects of the culture and life to young children. All of us are passionate about knowledge, and believe that if children have the knowledge that other generations have missed, respect and recognition will follow.

Somewhere in there, the Our Place series was born.

Fay and I were keen to represent a variety of Aboriginal lifestyles and to do that we have a different illustrator for each book. Lisa Kennedy is a Trawlwoolway descendent, and Jasmine Seymour is a proud Darug woman.

  1. How did you collaborate? In person, by phone, etc? Anything you’d like to share about your process?

Fay and I work in person, on the phone and via emails and notes. We meet regularly – well we did before Covid – and spend the day talking, (I ask questions, Fay shares, I listen) taking notes and generally bouncing around ideas. I draft our ideas then we begin the edit. Sometimes together, other times we work individually and then come back together to share our thoughts. Fay’s main focus is content and mine is structure and writing. It’s an open exchange of ideas and words.

  1. What were the best bits about collaborating?

Everything. I love collaborating. I love bouncing ideas off each other and watching how that initial spark grows.

  1. What were the challenges?

COVID. Because of the current situation, Fay and I haven’t been able to do our regular catch ups. Apart from anything else, I miss her company and humour. Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoy collaboration.

  1. Any tips for other collaborators?

All the books I’m working on at the moment are collaborations. As well as working with Fay, I’m doing a number of non fiction books with other writers and again, am loving the process. I’m not sure I can offer any tips, as each is different, but equally rewarding. I’m lucky as my collaborators are also friends, so we have a strong relationship already.

Collaborating is just like working with an editor, in that we are all working towards the same goal – producing a great book.

  1. Any general writing tips around working on books like these?

When you are the writer working with ‘an expert’, LISTEN. There is gold in the conversations.

  1. What are the final two books in the series called and when will they be released?

At this stage there are two being illustrated, and perhaps more to come. The next two have been held up by Covid, but I think they will be out in 2021. Everything is a little unsure at the moment, just like the rest of the world.

Thanks so much for visiting, Aunty Fay and Sue. Respect and Family are available through the publisher’s website or at all good bookstores.