The profile of Illawarra-based Indigenous artist and writer Kirli Saunders keeps rising with yet another award under her belt, and it's simply thanks to her commitment to her community she says.
The proud Gunai woman was honoured with the Australian Book Industry Award for Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year last week, for her second children's book titled Bindi- a verse novel for mid-upper primary aged kids.
"This book is a book of big ideas, about climate change and environment, and caring for country pitched at young people," the 30-year-old said.
The plot follows 11-year-old Bindi who was raised and lives on Gundungurra country, speaks the Gundungurra language and speaks to her elders. Bindi is passionate about planting trees and caring for the black cockatoo - which is a threatened species in her community.
"When you win awards you get this platform for a time, so while I've got this platform I'm trying to use it to raise money for a project called 'Re[ad]generate' to get black books in homes from flood and fire-affected communities," Saunders said.
Books are like a hug in hard times.Kirli Saunders
The new project was sparked "on her day off" at the weekend and inspired by a group of principals and executive leaders of public schools from disaster-ravaged areas - landscapes that have strong family ties.
While she is still to work out the finer details of how many books and the specific schools that are most in need, the current goal is to raise at least $10,000 via crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. If the goal is met, Saunders said she will match it.
"Books are such a beautiful safe place for young people, books are like a hug in hard times and I so often turn to books to stay inspired and creative and connected," Saunders said.
"I feel energised by being able to contribute to community ... it's my responsibility to myself, to community and to the earth. I think no matter what I do or what industry I work in, making sure I'm caring for country and honouring my community by sharing my gifts whatever they are and supporting other people to do the same, feels really important."
The multi-award winning writer has this week been part of the Sydney Writers' Festival before travelling to the Byron Bay Writers' Festival to mentor First Nations writers.
Later this month she will be working with Wollongong's Merrigong Theatre Company for a development showing of her new play, Going Home. The work explores the intersection of the removal of four siblings taken from their families in the 1970s and the homecoming of those siblings to Country in present day.