Jasmine Seymour is a Dharug writer, artist and teacher. She is a descendant of Maria Lock, who was the daughter of Yarramundi, the Boorooberongal elder who had met Governor Phillip on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in 1791.
Maria was the first Aboriginal woman to be educated by the Blacktown Native Institute. She was married to carpenter and convict Robert Lock, and their union resulted in thousands of descendants who can all trace their Dharug heritage back past Yarramundi. Jasmine is a member of the Custodian Aboriginal Corporation.
It is Jasmine’s wish that through her books, everyone will know that the Dharug mob are still here and still strong. Jasmine is a primary school teacher in the Hawkesbury area of NSW. Her previous books include Baby Business, Cooee Mittigar and Family (illustrator).
Her new book, Open Your Heart to Country, is a First Nations bilingual children’s picture book. It is a moving account of healing and belonging from a First Nations perspective.
Jasmine Seymour’s exquisite collage illustrations place readers among nature. Paired with the soft, lilting text, the book not only resonates with very young children, it shares a deeper message with older readers.
‘It is a story about the joy of learning. Learning about Indigenous people, learning about Country, learning about languages,’ says Jasmine. ‘It is incredible the amount of knowledge we are locked out of when we don’t open our hearts.’
Jasmine tells the story in two languages, English and Dharug. ‘Dharug language has been spoken by people who have lived across the Sydney Basin for thousands of years.
Because no two languages ever follow exactly the same sentence patterns, and all cultures express concepts and ideas in their own way, we learn a lot about how different societies think when we listen to and learn new languages,’ she says. The engaging story is important in teaching young children about the First Nations reciprocal relationship with Country and is a book the whole family can enjoy.
Open Your Heart to Country was commissioned as part of the online Storytime program by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), supported by funding from the Australian Government Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund, an Australian Government Initiative. Open Your Heart to Country is a powerful education tool and will include teacher notes for those using the text in classrooms.