Co-creator/Author/Illustrator: Richard Pritchard
Co-creator/Author: Jordan Gould - (Peek Whurrong Man)
Art Consultant: Jeremy Ley
Koorie Consultant: Uncle Robbie Lowe Snr - Peek Whurrong Elder (Wungit/Chief)
Koorie Consultant: Uncle Locky Eccles - Peek Whurrong Elder
Koorie Support Team Member: Phoebe Watson - (Peek Whurrong Woman)
Wylah (Pronounced Wee-La)
Wungit (Pronounced Woun-git)
Is the project supported by Elders?
“Our history is very important to all Elders in this area and we need to keep telling our stories. Richard and Jordan are working on a project that will tell those stories for our future generations to understand indigenous lives. As an Elder, I support this project and we will watch it grow into the future.” - Uncle Robbie Lowe Snr - Peek Whurrong Elder (Wungit/Chief)
Questions answered by Richard Pritchard - Wylah Co-Creator/Story/Writer/Artist
How did the project start?
As a New Zealand born Samoan, I could see similar connections with Pacific Islanders, Maori and Indigenous Australian cultures. In New Zealand, we have very strong female characters in our heritage and history. Traditionally women are as much warriors as men, in fact, many of our dances for both males and females are actually ways of practising fighting and weapon skills. In early 2019 I saw an image of an Indigenous girl in her traditional clothes dancing and I thought ‘Yes! They also have their warriors!” As a Polynesian, it's easy for me to imagine that there would have been and still are strong, independent, passionate, clever and determined Indigenous women. That was the birth of Wylah.
How did you and Jordan meet?
I met Jordan through teaching animation in Warrnambool. He became a talented animator and 3d modeller in a short amount of time, which is a testimony to his talent and focus. My main goal with teaching is to encourage young people to start their own enterprises and creative projects. Jordan had some amazing ideas to create his own video games and cultural projects.
"I hope this can bring Indigenous stories into the eyes and minds of younger people and help them understand our culture." - Jordan Gould.
I could see that he had some solid storytelling skills and the passion to make them happen. That’s what you want in a collaborator, passion and action. With both of us coming from cultural backgrounds and having mutual respect for each other it was a good fit.
Who created the story?
Although it was my initial idea, it was Jordan who called her Wylah and together we have been developing characters, story structures, histories, concepts and arcs for the characters. So it is very much an equal 50/50 split on the creation of Wylah.
Who will write the book?
Although I am writing the book, both Jordan and I develop the story. Every character, plot, story arc and design is a collaboration. We also use my small writer’s group/story trust made up of professional scriptwriters and story artists to mentor and doctor the story.
What time is the story based in?
Wylah is set in a fantasy, alternate history world. It is inspired by the King Arthur mythical tales, cultural mythology and pre-colonial times. This is a work of fiction and is not intended to be a historical account of real-life in the South West. We also will not use actual names or depictions of real people. Her journey is one experienced in many cultures, we have purposefully based the story in an original fantasy world, not on any pre-existing properties.
"Wylah is a work of fiction with real-world elements." - Jordan Gould.
Why is Wylah the last Koorie Warrior?
Well, this is a tricky one and we don’t want to give too much away. But when her people are taken by the invading Dragon Empire, she becomes the 'Last' left behind (not left alive).
Wylah is a young Art Teacher when the story begins. It’s through her journey to find the Guardians and save her people that she is transformed into the Warrior.
From a story point of view, it gives it a sense of urgency and intrigue. It was a young Koorie dancer/warrior that inspired the entire story, but you will have to read the book to find our more.
How can two guys write about a female Warrior?
I believe you should always write from experience and that the team is more important than the one.
I grew up in a single-parent family, my Mother was strong, inventive, selfless, giving, kind, hardworking, funny and full of love. My wife and daughter are the same, they are both hard-working, fighters and protectors.
So you could say I've had over 40 years of experience in 'How to live with strong women.' These three women are my inspirations and muses. Wylah embodies all of their influences.
I also believe the best writing comes in collaboration with a great writing team. That's why I'm a part of a writers' group/story trust and will continually workshop ideas that serve the story of Wylah.
How can you write about Koorie if you're not Koorie?
Jordan and I split the story 50/50, we discuss in-depth every aspect of the story, from what Wylah wears to places she visits.
"We plan to integrate Indigenous words into the story with creatures speaking the native language." - Jordan Gould.
We will also have one of the characters act as an 'audience point of view character' so that Indigenous culture can be explained in a way that young non-indigenous people can understand. We also have two Peek Whurrong Elders that we constantly consult about cultural permissions and sensitivities.
Wylah is from the Maar Nation, this is a universal story about hope, trust, acceptance, redemption and transformation. These are common themes in all cultures.
Are you appropriating culture?
This is Jordan's story, his culture, his characters, the elements of the story are from an Australian Indigenous perspective in a fantasy world. I'm Indigenous to Samoa, so you could say we have an Indigenous cultural exchange. Wylah is 100% Indigenous owned.
How does Wylah relate to what is happening in the World today?
From my experience as New Zealand born Samoan, Polynesians and Maori people are highly celebrated in the entertainment, arts, education and sports industries. Culture is deeply integrated into all aspects of society and mainstream media.
In New Zealand, the only thing we were taught about Australia were Bunyips, Skippy, and Waltzing Matilda. Arriving in Australia I expected to see a lot of Indigenous people on the streets, running businesses and as integrated as the Polynesians and Maoris in New Zealand. This was not the case and I have always wondered why and what happened to them. Little did I know about what the Australian Aboriginals went through. It really hurts to think about how hard it must have been to be in a system that actively and openly oppressed everything about you in your own country.
Since that time I have always wanted but never known how I could make a difference. I know what cultural integration looks like, what it feels like. I'm married to a strong-willed Australian woman whose family loves and respects other cultures. Our generation of Australians are not those of the past, we are in the midst of a global course correction right now. We are coming from a positive perspective that we want to be a catalyst for change.
So in a way, Wylah is my way of saying we can make a difference, through education and entertainment we can open this dialogue.