Wylah The Koorie Warrior authors Richard Pritchard and Jordan Gould inspired by their mothers


A bestselling children’s book features a new kind of hero – she’s a girl, she’s an indigenous Australian and she’s a warrior.

Guardians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior is an illustrated book of chapters; a fantastical adventure set 40,000 years ago in the lands of Peek Whurrong in South West Victoria.

Australian children became instantly obsessed with Wylah, making the book one of the best-selling children’s novels of the year so far, and sending it to the top of the charts at booksellers Booktopia and Readings.

And the good news for kids who have already read the book is that the authors have mapped out a whole world of new characters and new adventures to ensure the Wylah series can run for years to come.

Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard created the Wylah series of books.(Supplied: Allen & Unwin)

Authors inspired by their single mothers

Warrnambool co-authors Richard Pritchard and Jordan Gould said the book began with the vision of Wylah – a strong First Nations girl who would embody the kindness and courage that Pritchard and Gould experienced from women who raised them.

Pritchard grew up in New Zealand in a single parent home with three siblings,

He said he saw the sacrifices his mother made for her children.

Faded photo of a beautiful Samoan woman reading a magazine on an armchair in a yellow collared dress
Richard Pritchard’s mother, Margaret Pritchard, was his inspiration for the title character.(Provided: Richard Pritchard)

“I’ve always been in awe and have great respect for women, and I have a very strong wife and daughter,” he said.

Gould is a Peek Whurrong man who was brought up in Warrnambool by a young single mother.

He attributes his success to the strength of his mother.

“My mom had me when she was 16 and she did her best to raise me, an autistic child,” Gould said.

He said he had very low-level autism.

“She just stayed with me and did the best she could – and now I’m here.”

A faded photo of a beautiful young woman and her young son leaning on her
Jordan little boy with his mother Simone Gould.(Provided: Jordan Gould)

Pritchard said their similar childhoods had a huge influence on their creative work together.

“Jordan grew up with very strong female role models and so did I,” he said.

“I’ve always thought that if the men don’t stand up, then the women will.”

A true Australian hero

Guardians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior is a fast-paced action adventure about a young woman whose courage is tested by an invading force of dragons under the command of greedy humans in search of gold.

Animation sketch of a young koori girl in traditional fur dress with basket
A sketch of Wylah the Koorie Warrior.(Provided: Richard Pritchard)

Wylah must connect to her ancestral matriarchal knowledge and powers in order to find the strength to fight for her people, Peek Whurrong, who have been captured.

The story is set among the natural sites of Warrnambool, such as the Hopkins River and Moyjil (Point Ritchie), where geographically specific megafauna roam.

A sketch of a cliff and a river mouth
The village of Peek Whurrong in Wylah mirrors the landscape of the Hopkins River.(Provided: Ritchard Pritchard)

Pritchard said he and Gould knew from the start that they wanted the book to be more than just a fun tale to entertain children, an intention Pritchard made clear in his preface.

“To all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia, may Wylah be a vehicle to start a conversation of love, acceptance, unity and empathy,” he wrote.

Before writing a single word, Pritchard said he “wanted to match what is happening in New Zealand in terms of exposure to indigenous culture”.

“It’s very celebrated, it’s on every corner, it’s rooted in school, in politics, everyone speaks a language, everything is embraced,” he said.

A large billboard for a children's book on a highway says
A billboard for Wylah appears along the highway towards Geelong in Victoria.(Supplied: Allen & Unwin)

“I always wanted this for Australia because I know what they are missing.

Pritchard, an animator who has worked with Hollywood directors including George Miller, said he and Gould needed to create a character “that people can pick up on, that all of Australia can relate to”.

Wylah was inspired by the real-life Peek Whurrong women known to be warriors, as well as the women Pritchard grew up surrounded by in his Samoan culture.

A happy Disney-style cartoon character with traditional Australian indigenous body paint
Wylah was inspired by women known to be warriors.(Supplied: Allen & Unwin)

“I know the history of Samoa, Maori are female warriors, so immediately the image was of an indigenous female warrior,” he said.

“I’ve never seen this (here) before because I didn’t grow up in this culture (but) I certainly haven’t seen it in public.

A 40,000-year-old hero in the making

Gould only found out he was Indigenous when his mother marked him as of Indigenous descent when she enrolled him in high school.

He was approached to join a cultural program at Brauer College.

“A group called Clontarf is for aboriginal boys, they helped me through my schooling and got me through to grade 12,” he said.

Young man wearing headphones with boxes of electronics behind
Jordan Gould works as an electronics technician in Warrnambool.(ABC South West Victoria: Emily Bissland)

After finishing school, Gould came into contact with two of Warrnambool’s Peek Whurrong elders, Uncle Robert Lowe and Uncle Locky Eccles, who taught him about his culture and language.

The book is culturally specific and borrows heavily from the language and culture of the Peek Whurrong, who have lived in South West Victoria for tens of thousands of years.

Pritchard said the specificity was important because he learned from the mistakes seen in popular children’s animated films made in recent times.

“You can’t mix cultures and create a nameless culture that offends everyone,” he said.

“It’s like saying ‘You all look alike’.

Two kids pretending to be eaten by a megafauna statue
Max and Sierra Pritchard find a Diprotodon in the Narracoorte caves.(Provided: Richard Pritchard)

He said Wylah should be from a real culture with a language so everyone can celebrate her rather than mixing cultures to say “here’s a princess for everyone”.

The authors said they drew heavily on the knowledge of local elders, as well as a unique book by James Dawson and his daughter Isabella, written in the 1880s, which compiled detailed notes on the peoples’ language and customs. natives of the western district of Victoria. .

Pritchard believed that a worldwide shift in racial politics led to Wylah’s success.

two men look at a computer screen in a room surrounded by aboriginal posters and books
Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard work in their Warrnambool studio.(ABC South West Victoria: Emily Bissland)

“I think a lot of things in society have changed over the last few years,” Pritchard said.

“You have the Me Too movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, Change the Date, there is still a lot of controversy and conflict today with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

He said it led to a huge underlying desire to reconnect with native culture.

“And Wylah does it for them, so that’s his strength,” he said.


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