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History of the BRDU Printery


We started making books in 1974 when the Bilingual Program started. Ken Japanangka Hale came to teach Yapa how to read and write Warlpiri, and taught all the white school staff some Warlpiri. “ Before the Bilingual Program Yapa didn’t read or write in Warlpiri. There were no Warlpiri books.

“There were three men making books. That was George Robertson, who also did teaching, Robin Granites, and Perry Langdon. They made a lot of books pretty quickly. We sent the first lot off to Darwin to the government printer…they finally came back and they were all good. And then we sent another lot off and they all got blown away in the Cyclone! [in 1975]. We lost those books forever.”


We had only an old Roneo machine which wasn’t very good for copying- it was very temperamental, ink all over the place, and spat out paper uncontrollably!… Then we got a Spirit duplicator – there’s none of those left now, and then we got an off-set press. The first printer we got…I went over there to see how they were going and there were just papers going everywhere, flying out of the machine! It took quite a bit of mastering.”

“I was called Co-ordinator of the Bilingual Program back then, and then we got a teacher-linguist as well, who mostly wrote [Warlpiri] curriculum. Mary Laughren [linguist] came around about the time we got the off-set press. The first books she made were on the Roneo machine and we still have some of those. She learnt Warlpiri quickly.” “Everyone in the school was really excited when books started to be printed in their own language. “Whenever a new book came out it became a main theme for quite a while [in the classrooms].”


”The Printery used to send a lot of books away, we had a big list of places where we sent books. Libraries, archive people, subscribers…there was a mixture of reasons why people wanted them. And we sent them off to all the schools too [in other Warlpiri communities].” The illustrations were all done in-house. “In the beginning it was those three men. They were all good artists and storytellers. Other people like Anthony [Egan] was teaching, but he still made some books. And Lloyd Spencer made some…Other people wrote books printery outside too like Jeanne and Tess, and Connie Rice… I was amazed how many stories and illustrations people could come up with! And good quality! And Willowra was making a lot of books then too… and Lajamanu made some.