Media Releases - 06 September 2023

BREAKING: Winners announced! 2023 Karajia & Environment Awards for Children's Literature

From planting veggie gardens and understanding cultural burning, to meaningful relationships with grandparents and orangutans: the winning authors and illustrators of the Karajia & Environment Awards for Children’s Literature (EACL) tackle some of biggest issues facing our planet and encourage a love and wonderment of nature in young readers.

The announcement was made in Sydney on Wednesday 6 September at 7pm as part of a series of exciting storytelling events during Nature Book Week (4–10 September). This special announcement was hosted by Wilderness Society NSW Campaigns Manager, Victoria Jack, and previous award winner author, Sami Bayly.

Now in its 29th year, the EACL celebrates Australian books written for children that promote a love of and care for nature, recognising the creative role that authors and illustrators have played in inspiring future generations. Established in 2022, the Karajia Award is awarded to a book that celebrates a connection to Country and stories exploring land, community, culture and language by a First Nations author or illustrator.

Matt Brennan, CEO of Wilderness Society says Books we read as children, shape who we become. Stories can help us tackle big ideas like the climate crisis or habitat destruction. They can spark our greatest ideas and adventures, change the way we experience the world, and even help us establish our values. That’s why the Wilderness Society’s Karajia and Environment Awards for Children’s Literature are so important. These Awards celebrate authors and illustrators who share stories that will shape the next generation."


FICTION: BERANI (Michelle Kadarusman)


THE TREE AT NUMBER 43 (Jess McGeachin)

Fiction winning author and illustrator Michelle Kadarusman says "Winning the Environment Award for Children’s literature in the fiction category is an incredible honour. I’m deeply humbled and grateful to the Wilderness Society for championing books that foster a love of nature, its precious creatures, and ignites youth activism. To have Berani counted among these important titles is a dream come true."

Non-Fiction winning author Jaclyn Crupi says "It's such an honour to see our book win this prize. All the books on the shortlist were inspiring and wonderful and I'd like to acknowledge the work and care of all the authors and illustrators. These important books draw attention to how precious our environment is and how we all need to learn about it and care for it from a young age."

Non-Fiction winning illustrator Cheryl Orsini says "I’m honoured that The ABC Guide to Loving the Planet has won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature in the non-fiction category. This book is bursting with great ideas to make a positive impact on the Earth, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team."

Picture Fiction winner Jess McGeachin saysI’m so grateful to have had Kind and The Tree at Number 43 recognised with an Environment Award For Children's Literature. Both books were inspired by the wonder of the natural world, celebrating the trees that grow up around us in The Tree at Number 43 and the incredible diversity of animals with which we share our home in Kind. We need stories that celebrate the living world and inspire hope now more than ever, and I’m so proud to be a part of that.

The Environment Award for Children’s Literature was started in 1994 by a group of environmental educators who wanted to work with the Wilderness Society to promote a love of nature through books. The judging panel this year included Australian actor and regular Playschool host Alex Papps, last year's EACL winner children’s book author and illustrator Sami Bayly and visual artist, cultural education consultant and preschool teacher Adam Duncan.

Past winners of the award include acclaimed Australian children’s authors Tim Winton, Paul Jennings, Jackie French, Aunty Joy Murphy, the late Narelle Oliver, Coral Tulloch, Graeme Base and Wendy Orr.


LOOKING AFTER COUNTRY WITH FIRE (Victor Steffensen / Sandra Steffensen)

Author Victor Steffensen says "So proud to have Looking After Country With Fire win the 2023 Karajia Award for children's literature. It's as cool as cool burning itself."

Illustrator Sandra Steffensen "I am truly overwhelmed with delight that Looking After Country with Fire won the 2023 Karajia Award for children's literature. It is a great honour and truly sets an incredible and memorable event in my life."

The Karajia Award for Children’s Literature celebrates and recognises the important message of First Nations authors and illustrators that honour a connection to Country – sharing stories exploring land, community, culture and language. Judges for this year’s Karajia awards include 2022 inaugural Karajia award winning author and former AFL player Adam Goodes, Australian actor and regular Playschool presenter Hunter Page-Lochard and inaugural Karajia winner illustrator and visual artist Leanne Mulgo Watson.


Judges’ comments of the winning titles and their reflections on what made them stand out below.

BERANI by Michelle Kadarusman
Winner of the EACL: Fiction category

Sami Bayly says “This book promotes a great discussion of ethics/morals, consequences and the environment and how they sometimes may not be as straightforward as you might think. A great topic for kids in the current times.”

Alex Papps says “Poignant, beautiful. Incredibly moving tale. Full of hope and inspiration.”

Adam Duncan says “An interesting look at human relationships to the more-than-human, capturing the capacity of children to be active and effective agents of change.”

THE ABC KIDS GUIDE TO LOVING THE PLANET by Jaclyn Crupi and Cheryl Orsini
Winner of the EACL: Non-Fiction Category

Alex Papps says “Excellent resource of strategies to support the ecology & reduce our impact. Full of hope and positivity.”

Adam Duncan says “An amazingly practical guide, geared at children and young people. Filled with accessible and useful ideas, concepts and activities that children can undertake to care for the environment.”

KIND by Jess McGeachin
Winner of the EACL: Picture Fiction category

Sami Bayly says “I loved the diverse selection of animals within and thought the message about being 'kind' was very sweet and important for kids.”

Alex Papps says “A wonderful young person’s ‘field guide’ with the ever-important message of kindness”

Adam Duncan says “Breathtakingly illustrated—Kind simplifies the process involved in effectively fostering environmental stewardship in children by reducing the first step to its most accessible form—be kind to all creatures.”

TREE AT NUMBER 43 by Jess McGeachin
Winner of the EACL: Picture Fiction category

Alex Papps says “A fantastic tale of inspiration and solidarity.”

Adam Duncan says “Beyond its artistic brilliance, the book carries a powerful message of environmental stewardship, encouraging children to cherish and protect nature. The author shares with us a wonderfully fantastic world in which characters truly bring the natural world indoors with them.”

LOOKING AFTER COUNTRY WITH FIRE by Victor Steffensen and Sandra Steffensen

Winner of the Karajia Award

Adam Goodes says “What I love about this book is the acknowledgment of traditional aboriginal ways and how they can still be useful and efficient in today’s settings, especially the management of Country with fire.”

Leanne Mulgo Watson says “The importance of fire in our countries is a very important part of our culture, it is great to have a book that can teach us about fire on Country and how important it is.”

Adam Duncan says “A wonderful book, toeing the line between fiction and non-fiction, exploring the traditional practices of Aboriginal custodians of Country and providing a very unique take on how we can work to value and care for the natural world.”

For more information about all winning and shortlisted Environment Award for Children’s Literature and Karajia Awards books please click here.


Interviews with the judges and the shortlisted authors and illustrators can be arranged on request.
Claire Teggin at [email protected] or 0481 572 136
Terri King at [email protected] or 0488 036 740

Press pack and images available here.