Karajia and Environment Awards for Children's Literature

Karajia and Environment Awards for Children's Literature

The Wilderness Society's annual celebration of the best new nature-themed children's books

Each year, we shortlist the best new fiction, non-fiction and picture books written for children that promote nature, before a panel of judges crowns the winners! Showcasing some of Australia's most-loved children's authors and illustrators, the award is now in its 28th year.

2022 shortlist announced!

The shortlisted entries for the 2022 Environment Award for Children's Literature were announced on Facebook Live on Monday, 4 July. And our new Karajia Award for Children's Literature, which celebrates First Nations storytelling, was also revealed!

Watch the announcements and learn more about the Karajia Award and the shortlisted titles below. And stay tuned—the winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony during Nature Book Week in September.

Image: Stephen Axford.

We believe the books we read shape us as people. They can spark our greatest ideas and adventures, change the way we experience the world, and even help us establish our values.

Since 1994, the Wilderness Society has been recognising the talents of authors and illustrators whose creativity is inspiring the next generation, through our annual Environment Award for Children's Literature. Past recipients of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature include Tim Winton, Paul Jennings, Jackie French, the late Narelle Oliver, Coral Tulloch, Graeme Base and Wendy Orr.

We think growing a love of nature in young people is fundamental to becoming a society that values and protects Australia’s unique landscapes, oceans and wildlife.

We received a nearly a 100 books for consideration in the 2022 Environment Award For Children's Literature. Thank you to all of the authors and publishers who submitted entries.

This year's awards, which will take place during Nature Book Week from 5-11 September, are set to be bigger and better than ever.

Introducing the Karajia Award

Bunna in ceremony. Image: Bill Doyle.

Over the last several years, we noticed that more and more First Nation authored and/or illustrated books were being submitted to the Environment Award for Children’s Literature.

Not all of these books explicitly “promote a love of nature”; First Nations people have been stewards of this continent’s natural world for tens of thousands of years, and continue to be so. However, many of these titles honour a connection to Country and tell stories exploring land, community, culture and language.

That’s why we are launching the Karajia Award for Children’s Literature. An award that celebrates this continent's First Nations authors and/or illustrated children’s books.

In Mirning culture, Karajia is a holder and teller of the ancient stories, carried from when the world was young. Senior Elder of the Mirning people, Uncle Bunna Lawrie is a Karajia. He is one of the three inaugural judges of the award and has shared this incredible name with us.

Learn more about Mirning culture in issue #009 of Wilderness Journal.

The Karijia Award shortlist

Celebrating the best in First Nations storytelling for younger generations.

You can purchase some of the books using the links below. *This webpage has affiliate links with retailer Booktopia, which means that the Wilderness Society may receive a commission for a sale that it refers, at no extra cost to you.

Sea Country

Aunty Patsy Cameron, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy, published by Magabala Books

In this delightful children’s picture book, Aunty Patsy Cameron generously shares the stories and traditions from her family’s seasonal island life in Tasmania. With evocative text and stunning illustrations, Sea Country lets the reader know when to pick ripe wild cherries, when the moon (mutton) birds fly home and how the nautilus shells smell like the deepest oceans.

Aunty Patsy Cameron, who is a descendant of the Pairebeenne Trawlwoolway clan in Tasmania, weaves a cultural homage to life on Flinder’s Island, with stories of collecting shells, fishing in wooden dinghies with long oars, and watching clouds snake their way down Mt Munro. Alongside this tender story, Lisa Kennedy reveals the love and connection to sea and Country through her intricate collages and delicate illustrations that sing country alive.

Purchase this book*


Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson, published by Magabala Books

A tender, thoughtful story with a gentle reminder of all the ways sharing makes us stronger.

Sharing is book three in the award-winning Our Place series (Respect 2020, Family 2020) that introduces children to First Nations philosophies that are dear to Aunty Fay’s heart. Each book is a powerful educational tool, with exquisite illustrations.

Purchase this book*

Warna-Manda Baby Earth Walk

Susan Betts, illustrated by Mandy Foot and Susan Betts, published by Little Book Press for Raising Literacy Australia Inc

Follow Allurru as she is guided across the land on a journey to discover her connection to Mother Earth and find her way home. An ode to earth, sea and sky, Warna-Manda Baby Earth Walk is a gift to future generations to help them connect, care and understand the world around them.

This book is a beautiful story about connection to country. Susan Bett’s lyrical text soars across the pages as does the ever-protective Waldya (eagle). The combination of Susan Betts and Mandy Foot’s illustrations provide a rich backdrop to Susan’s enveloping, warm words. The subtle message to embrace our natural world as it embraces us flows effortlessly throughout the pages.

This picture book is rare in the fact that it can be used in different ways. It can encourage parent and baby to copy Allurru’s actions as she mimics her companions. Whilst also being a soothing bedtime lullaby story to snuggle up with.

Wiradjuri Country

Larry Brandy, published by National Library of Australia

Welcome to Wiradjuri Country.

The Wiradjuri are the people of the three bila (rivers) and their nguram-bang (Country) is the second largest in Australia. Come with Uncle Larry Brandy on an enlightening journey through his Country's rivers, woodlands, grasslands and rocky outcrops, as well as the murri-yang (sky world).

Along the way, young readers will encounter animals such as bila-durang (platypus), and maliyan (wedge-tailed eagle), plants like the maybal (grass tree) and yirany (yam daisy), and discover stories like that of Tiddalik the giant frog. They will learn how Wiradjuri people lived on their Country, using the flower spikes of the grass tree as spears, soaking its flowers in water to make a sweet drink and weaving its leaves into baskets.

This is a unique book combining language, culture, Indigenous history and storytelling, written by a Wiradjuri author. It features colour photographs of animals, plants and habitats, as well as illustrations by Indigenous artists Kristie Peters and Scott 'Sauce' Towney.

Purchase this book*

Somebody's Land: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing, illustrated by David Hardy, published by Allen & Unwin

Somebody's Land is an invitation to connect with First Nations culture, to acknowledge the hurt of the past, and to join together as one community with a precious shared history as old as time.

Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing's powerful words and David Hardy's pictures, full of life, invite children and their families to imagine themselves into Australia's past - to feel the richness of our First Nations' history, to acknowledge that our country was never terra nullius, and to understand what 'welcome to our country' really means.

Purchase this book*

The Story Doctors

Boori Monty Pryor, illustrated by Rita Sinclair, published by Allen & Unwin

This is a book for everybody. Welcome! Take a seat! And listen carefully, because this story has a heartbeat. Can you feel it, there in your chest?

Legendary storyteller Boori Monty Pryor invites us to travel with him from the first footsteps through 80,000+ years of strength, sickness, and immense possibility.

From the very first stories and art, to dance, language, and connection with the land, Boori offers a powerful, beautiful, and deeply rich account of Australia's true history, drawing on a lifetime of wisdom, and on his generous instinct to teach and heal.

An exquisitely illustrated celebration of the power of storytelling to unite us, how nature connects us, and the wonderful truth that the medicine needed for healing lies within us all.

Purchase this book*

The River

Sally Morgan, illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, published by Magabala Books

Another simple, universal story from Sally Morgan – this time a beautifully illustrated celebration of the life of the river. The River takes the reader on a journey of what their eyes can see and their ears can hear. See green ants crawling, hear frogs croaking, a goanna running, a fish splashing... Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a unique, distinctive children’s picture book with global appeal. Johnny infuses his illustrations with his fine-art aesthetic and his traditional motifs to bring each page to vivid life.

Purchase this book*

Walking in Gagudju Country: Exploring the Monsoon Forest

Diane Lucas and Ben Tyler, illustrated by Emma Long, published by Allen & Unwin

Diane Lucas, Ben Tyler and Emma Long share their knowledge and love of the Top End in this enchanting and accessible book about one of Australia's most ancient and beautiful ecosystems.

Purchase this book*

The 2022 shortlist

We received nearly a 100 books for the 2022 Environment Award For Children's Literature, and it was a difficult task to whittle it down to the 13 fantastic titles that have made it into this year's shortlist. The winners will be announced at a special ceremony during Nature Book Week from 5-11 September.

Picture Fiction

The Accidental Penguin Hotel

Andrew Kelly, illustrated by Dean Jones, published by Wild Dog Books

The penguin colony at St Kilda Breakwater is famous, but does anyone know when and how they got there? The Accidental Penguin Hotel tells the story of the colony's establishment and the human intervention that enabled it. Following the first penguin to call the Breakwater his home, read along as he builds his burrow, finds a mate and starts a family. With gorgeous illustrations by Dean Jones, this is a positive environmental story that readers will love.

Purchase this book*

9 things to remember (and one to forget)

Written and illustrated by Alison Binks, published by Berbay Publishing

"Did you know that polar bears have smelly feet? Their footprints in the ice carry scent messages for other bears. Remember never tickle a polar between his big, furry, smelly toes. You’ll scramble the message!”

9 things to remember (and one to forget) is an ode to nature. Each turn of the page reveals a small wonder, something to investigate, discover and embrace.

Purchase this book*


Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson, published by Magabala Books

A tender, thoughtful story with a gentle reminder of all the ways sharing makes us stronger.

Sharing is book three in the award-winning Our Place series (Respect 2020, Family 2020) that introduces children to First Nations philosophies that are dear to Aunty Fay’s heart. Each book is a powerful educational tool, with exquisite illustrations.

Purchase this book*

One Potoroo: A Story of Survival

Penny Jaye, illustrated by Alicia Rogerson, published by CSIRO Publishing

This is a beautifully illustrated book about the world's most endangered marsupial, the Gilbert's Potoroo. When a bushfire destroys Potoroo's home, he becomes one of the last surviving Gilbert's Potoroos at Two Peoples Bay in Western Australia. Frightened, hurt and alone, Potoroo needs a new home – luckily, a team of conservationists know where Potoroo can go to be safe.

Purchase this book*

The River

Sally Morgan, illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, published by Magabala Books

Another simple, universal story from Sally Morgan – this time a beautifully illustrated celebration of the life of the river. The River takes the reader on a journey of what their eyes can see and their ears can hear. See green ants crawling, hear frogs croaking, a goanna running, a fish splashing... Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a unique, distinctive children’s picture book with global appeal. Johnny infuses his illustrations with his fine-art aesthetic and his traditional motifs to bring each page to vivid life.

Purchase this book*

Saving Seal. The Plastic Predicament

Diane Jackson Hill, illustrated by Craig Smith, published by Museums Victoria Publishing

In a small coastal town, Lizzie and Grandpa Dave rescue Seal whose flippers are tangled up in a plastic bag. How many more times will they have to save Seal? How can Lizzie and Grandpa Dave stop more plastic rubbish clogging up their Bay?

This is a story about people working together to make the right choices and about making them now.

Purchase this book*


The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature

Sami Bayly, published by Hachette Australia

Come along for another fresh take on the animal kingdom from bestselling author and illustrator, Sami Bayly. Discover 60 of the most peculiar pairs in nature and learn how plant and animal species rely on each other for their survival.

Whether it be a rare tick living in the fur of a pygmy possum, a stick insect feasting and hiding out amongst the Melaleuca or a handfish laying its eggs on a sea squirt, incredible natural relationships deserve to be explored and celebrated. Investigating all types of relationships, from symbiotic to parasitic, this is an eye-opening guide to the natural world.

Many species steer clear of those who are different, but the animals and plants in this book have evolved to form relationships with some of the most unlikely partners, and they couldn't live without them.

This gorgeous hardcover book is illustrated in exquisite detail by award-winning author and illustrator, Sami Bayly. The perfect companion to The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals.

Purchase this book*

The Australian Climate Change Book

Polly Marsden, illustrated by Chris Nixon, published by Hachette Australia

An accessible and reassuring picture book that teaches children about the specific challenges of climate change for Australia so they can be informed and make a difference.

Australia is a unique and incredibly diverse natural environment and we are oh-so-lucky to live here. Our country is home to a great number of amazing ecosystems. But things like fossil fuels, greenhouse gases and deforestation are creating imbalances in our ecosystems and causing climate change. Climate changes leads to all sorts of crazy weather and damage to our natural environments and wildlife habitats.

But it's not too late to fix it! Even small steps can make a difference and you have the power to help.

A practical and reassuring book for children to help them understand climate change and the ways in which they can make a difference.

Purchase this book*

The Way of the Weedy Seadragon

Anne Morgan, illustrated by Lois Bury, published by CSIRO Publishing

Do you believe in dragons? The weedy seadragon is an amazing fish with a talent for camouflage, weird eating habits and a unique courtship dance. But its habitat and future are threatened. This enchanting story takes you under the sea to meet this mysterious sea creature, and reveals its weird and wonderful ways.

Purchase this book*

The Gentle Genius of Trees

Written and illustrated by Philip Bunting, published by Omnibus

What could we clever humans ever learn from trees? Take an unashamedly anthropomorphic wander through the woods to learn a few life lessons from our foliaged friends.

Purchase this book*


Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Written and illustrated by Kylie Howarth, published by Walker Books Australia

Fish Kid’s third epic ocean adventure is set on a small island in the Maldives, the perfect place for Fish Kid to supercharge his fish powers. His friendship with bestie, Emely, soon hits a snag during a tricky sea turtle rescue. Secretly wishing for powers of her own, Emely’s strange behaviour leaves Fish Kid wondering if their friendship and the super-sick turtle will survive. And if things weren’t bad enough, another turtle from the sanctuary goes missing. Can this super hero-in-the-making use his fishy powers to save the day?

Purchase this book*

Bailey Finch Takes a Stand

Ingrid Laguna, published by Text Publishing

Bailey’s mum had always said that being by the creek with Bailey and her dad was as good as it gets. She had shown Bailey sap glistening on tree trunks. They had crouched together to nudge a beetle onto a leaf. They had sat on the creek’s edge with their bare feet in the water.

It’s one year since Bailey’s mum died. And her dad doesn’t seem to care much about anything. But Bailey still spends afternoons by the creek with her dog, Sheba.

Until Sheba gets sick—very sick—from something she must have swallowed while swimming in the creek. And Bailey notices all the rubbish polluting the waterway.

Between visits to Sheba in the vet hospital, Bailey tries to find a way to make the creek safe for Sheba and other animals. And through her unexpected friendship with Israel, a quiet boy who knows about endangered species, Bailey Finch finds the courage to take a stand.

Bailey Finch Takes a Stand is a moving story about love and loss, about caring for the environment and standing up to make change happen.

Purchase this book*

The Good Times of Pelican Rise: Save the Joeys

Samone Amba, published by Affirm Press

Grade sixers Sunday Moon and her besties Ockie, Kirra and Lottie are MAROONED in after-school care at Club Koala with the karaoke-loving grade twos and nit-infested preppies for company. It’s not exactly the way these legends thought they’d be ending their time at Pelican Rise Primary!

But after the worst summer of bushfires ever, Sunday is determined to use her last year at Club Koala to make a difference: OUT with the headstand competitions and IN with knitting pouches for injured wildlife!

And when Mr Guclu tells the grade sixers to build a legacy project for their final year of primary, Sunday and her friends decide to keep the good times rolling with a website that will spread the word about their pouch project.

With the help of her friends, a radio station, a whole bunch of wool from the op shop, a LOT of animal memes and their legacy project, The Good Times, Sunday is going to save as many joeys as she can.

Welcome to The Good Times of Pelican Rise … a fun series that explores growing up, finding community spirit, and using your voice to Be the Change.

Purchase this book*

Meet this year's judges

We are proud to announce our talented judges for this year's Environment Award For Children's Literature.

Corey Tutt

Corey Tutt.

Corey Tutt is a Kamilaroi man from Nowra on the New South Wales south coast. As a kid, he dreamed of becoming a zookeeper and in high school he developed a love of STEM subjects. But unlike the arts and sport, he found there was little encouragement for Aboriginal people to pursue careers in STEM.

In 2018, while working as a research assistant for the University of Sydney, Corey founded DeadlyScience, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to provide science books and telescopes to remote schools in Australia, and connects young Indigenous people with mentors to encourage their participation in STEM subjects.

In 2020, Corey was named the NSW Young Australian of the Year, and a Human Rights Hero by the Australian Human Rights Commission. He continues to work tirelessly to send STEM resources to Indigenous communities, and show First Nations kids that STEM is for them. The organisation has even attracted international attention, with Corey presenting at Harvard and Oxford universities.

Megan Daley

Megan Daley. Image: Ruby Olive.

Megan Daley is passionate about children’s literature and is the author of the bestselling book 'Raising Readers', published by UQP and the upcoming title 'The Bee Hive', published by Walker Books. She is a Teacher Librarian in Brisbane and has been awarded the Queensland Teacher Librarian of the Year, as well as the national Dromkeen Librarian’s Award.

A former national vice-president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Megan is also a sought after public speaker, literary judge, creator of the popular website Children's Books Daily and co-host of the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast. She also has a few more books in the pipeline. She also thinks sleep is overrated.

Corrina Eccles

Corrina Eccles. Image: Ferne Millen.

Corrina Eccles is a proud Wadawurrung woman living and working on Wadawurrung Country in Djilang/Geelong. Corrina is Manager – Cultural Education for the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC), which actively seeks to protect and conserve Wadawurrung living cultural heritage, including through planning and design initiatives.

Her journey and connection to this Country started with her grandmother and being guided and mentored by strong Elders and respected men and women in her wider Wadawurrung family and community. Corrina is a well-respected advocate and leader in the community with a passion for supporting Aboriginal children and young people to connect with Culture and Language to grow strong with their identity, to know who they are and where they belong.

With over 25 years of employment experience in Aboriginal organisations in the region, Corrina has with extensive knowledge and experience of community engagement, awareness of education providers and sector’s, advocacy for cultural values, support and connection.

Uncle Bunna Lawrie

Bunna Lawrie

Uncle Bunna is a Senior Elder of the Mirning People of the coastal country of the Billiaum Mocalba, the Great Australian Bight. He carries one of the World’s oldest lineages, which has continued since the Dhoogoor, Dreamtime and through over 3,000 generations. Today he is a Karajia, a holder and teller of the ancient stories, carried from when the world was young.

Uncle Bunna has dedicated his life to community, culture and country; taking great strength from the spiritual tradition of his ancestors. He has been recognised and honoured as one of Australia’s leading indigenous musicians, as an advocate for indigenous culture and for his work protecting the environment.

Born in 1950, he was raised in South Australia on the mission by a close family who secretly passed on the oral stories, traditions and language of his ancestors. His musical gifts lead to him establishing the multi-award winning group Coloured Stone and then, in his 40s, he was recognised by his Elders as the Whale Songman of the Mirning People.

He has travelled nearly every backroad of Australia sharing and healing through music, knowledge and wisdom. He has also supported in ritual and ceremony the continuity of many whale totem peoples. Uncle Bunna’s Mirning family are the Whaledreamers of the World’s greatest whale nursery and sanctuary. By preserving and sharing the wisdom of his ancestors with the younger generations, he continues the practices that have kept Country so pristine.

Uncle Bunna has been a mentor, Elder and inspiration for many in Australia and internationally. He has devoted his life to following the ways of his ancestors and teaching from the word Mirning, which means “listen, learn, understand and observe and then you will have wisdom and knowledge.”

Nat Amoore

Nat Amoore. Image: Carlos Velasco.

Nat is a Sydney-based writer and kidlit podcast host (One More Page) whose debut novel Secrets Of A Schoolyard Millionaire came out in 2019 with Penguin Random House. It had great success as both Dymocks and QBD's 'Kids Book Of The Month', becoming Australia's #1 bestselling debut Aussie children’s fiction in 2019 and has now sold into the UK, US, Italy, China, Estonia and Romania.

Her second book The Power Of Positive Pranking was released in 2020, and went on to win the 2021 Environment Award for Children’s Literature. The Right Way To Rock came out in 2021 and is a CBCA Book of the Year Notable. Nat’s fourth book We Run Tomorrow hit stands in May 2022.

Paul McDermott

Paul McDermott

Comedian, satirist, artist, musician and writer, McDermott was one of the members of the comedy team the Doug Anthony Allstars. McDermott performed on radio and television including the satiric current affairs game show Good News Week and Strictly Dancing. Originally trained as an artist, McDermott has written and illustrated various books including Ghostbear.

A rich back catalogue

The Environment Award For Children's Literature has a rich history. You can check out the entire catalogue of more than 25 years of children’s nature books. Plus you'll find stories about past winners along the way. Last year’s winners were The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, illustrated by Rovina Cai; Tree Beings by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Sandra Severgnini; and The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore.

Take your children's love of nature further

With the help of amazing authors and illustrators, we’ve put together these activities and lesson plans to spark your children's interest in the natural world. We'd love to see what they create!

Nature Book week

For readers of all ages!

Nature Book Week is a space for us all to celebrate nature writing in all its forms, from science writing to poetry, fiction and non-fiction. From 5-11 September, you'll find a week of talks and events culminating in the announcement of the winners of the Karajia and Environment Awards For Children's Literature. We also welcome back Dr Jen Martin as our Nature Book Week Ambassador.

Wilderness Journal Issue #012

Wilderness Journal Issue #012

For grown-up book worms, check out the special issue of our Wilderness Journal dedicated to all things nature and books. Including the five books that have influenced Dr Jen Martin throughout her life in natural science.

Books to good places

Children working with Stone Country Creations. Image: In kind from Nawarddeken Academy.

As part of Nature Book Week the Wilderness Society is working with First Nations communities and schools, like the Nawarddeken Academy in Arnhem Land and Deadly Science, to give the fantastic nature books we received for consideration a good home.

“The Nawarddeken Academy is thrilled to be receiving a donation of books from The Wilderness Society. Being located on an Indigenous ranger base in west Arnhem Land, we have limited access to quality printed texts that embrace the natural environment,” says Olga Scholes, Nawarddeken Academy Executive Officer.

“Our country is our classroom and local ecological knowledge is critical to Indigenous Language and Culture. In a remote bicultural school like ours, reading environmental stories from other parts of the world highlights the importance of caring for our local environment.”

The Nawarddeken Academy. Image: In kind from Nawarddeken Academy.

Corey Tutt CEO and Founder of Deadly Science says the donation of books is “Incredible! Books are freedom. To provide these Deadly books to our students is just amazing. Who knows, maybe this might be the thing that helps our students find their deadly passion.”