Stories for Simon book cover

On 13 February 2008, young mums and best friends Lisa Miranda Sarzin and Lauren Briggs watched Prime Minister Kevin Rudd give a speech in Parliament apologising to the Stolen Generations.  What they heard affected them deeply.  As non-Indigenous well-educated women of Jewish heritage, they thought about the pain and sadness of children being taken away from their families. They were left with questions about what saying sorry meant for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and the path forward.  Lisa and Lauren concluded it was their job as mothers to teach their children about the Stolen Generations and to remind them that we all have a part to play in creating a respectful, harmonious, and positive society.

From Sorry Day their picture book Stories for Simon was born. Lisa, a former lawyer and PhD student, and Lauren, a graphic designer and illustrator, scoured libraries and museums researching everything they could about Stolen Generations. They asked Bidjigal elder Vic Simms from La Perouse to be their mentor. He guided them through every stage of their work, writing and illustrating their beautiful story about Simon, a young boy who learns about the Stolen Generations and Sorry Day when he makes a new friend in Vic.

“We realised it was an opportunity to tell a great story and start a broader conversation about inclusiveness and Reconciliation.  By understanding what happened in the past, it could help shape how the future should look,” says Lauren. “It’s important to talk to children about historical injustice.  Stories for Simon is a very light touch and creates a space for them to ask their own questions.”

“The name Simon means ‘to listen’, and the story came from my heart,” explains Lisa. “It was a desire to start conversations that people weren’t having a few years ago, so it was ground-breaking at the time. We also wanted to financially support and positively impact the lives of Indigenous students. Our aim was to do good in the world on multiple levels.”

Lisa and Lauren engaged with GO in 2014 and pledged all royalties from Stories for Simon to GO. “Both of us are passionate about Indigenous education,” says Lauren. “The first school we visited with the book was Michael’s children’s school, and both Adam and Michael came. It was a very special day for us.”

“Our partnership with GO is exceptionally meaningful,” says Lisa. “I felt and still do feel a deep and profound connection.  Our message and values align, and we all have our shoulders to the same wheel.  I believe we cannot ignore the dark parts of our history.  By acknowledging them, we are able to move forward.”

As Lauren explains, “We believe there is a strong connection between Judaism and Indigenous ways of life.  We share a strong story telling culture, a strong connection to the land and are very family orientated.”

Since 2015, Lauren and Lisa have spoken to more than 2000 students about Stories for Simon and they are now conducting corporate workshops. “Stories for Simon is a picture book for adults as well,” says Lisa.  “As a vehicle for conversation it allows you go away and share the story and its themes of friendship, understanding different cultures, Reconciliation and hope for the future.”

Says Lauren, “We recently spoke to 300 employees at a large bank. Uncle Vic Simms was with us and led our conversation.  Everyone was able to take a book home, so there was a ripple effect.  They were able to take the conversation out of the workplace and continue it with their families.”

Stories for Simon has funded many GO Scholarships since its publication, and 100% of proceeds from the sale of the book continue to be donated to GO.

 

Header Photo: Australian Jewish News

Excerpt from Stories for Simon