AMONG the Hazara community of Afghanistan, the legend of Buz-e-Chini is a common tale told by mothers to their children.
It has been told for countless generations, and evokes the central highlands of Afghanistan through the story of a mother goat and a hungry wolf.
This tradition can now be continued 10,000 kilometres away in Bendigo, where a number of families from the persecuted Hazara community have been resettled.
Along with the Karen community of Bendigo, they have published two children’s books in their native languages with English translations, including illustrations from their children.
Fatima Qurbani completed the translations for the Afghanistani book – published by Kids’ Own Publishing – which features the legend of Buz-e-Chini in three languages: English, Hazaragi and Dari.
Ms Qurbani said the goal was to help Afghanistani families settle comfortably into Australian society, and to make them feel included in a culture completely removed from their own childhood.
“For elders, it is like a culture shock because they grew up in that culture, in that language, and that history, and that is everything that they know,” she said.
“Now here in Australia, it is totally different. It is a completely different life.
“This is the same for newborn babies and children as well.
“It is beneficial for the elders because you can keep your culture and your language alive, and if you’re happy and relaxed having this book, having these stories in your own language, it is helpful.”
A number of Bendigo community organisations arranged workshops at the Bendigo Library for Karen and Afghanistani families, where they brainstormed story ideas and their children worked on illustrations.
When the legend of Buz-e-Chini was retold at the Afghanistani workshop, a mother broke down in tears. The story reminded her of her own mother, who used to tell the story.
The project also had special significance for Ms Qurbani, who recently gave birth to her daughter.
“It is a really rewarding achievement,” she said.
“I am happy to do this for my community, for my elders, it is a reward for everyone because they can improve their language proficiency.
“This story was told to them in their childhood by the grandmother and grandfather, and now we have that in a book in Australia.”
The Karen community settled on a book that teaches numbers and counting using traditional cultural practices.
It features illustrations of children playing cane ball, taking part in a hand tying ceremony and the dance of the bamboo festival.
Numbers and expressions are written in English, then with their Karen pronunciation, and also in Burmese script.
The stories and illustrations were passed on to the publishing company in Melbourne, and the books were launched last week.
Zahir Azimi has lived in Bendigo for eight years after living in Pakistan for much of his life, following his upbringing in Afghanistan.
He also remembers Buz-e-Chini from his childhood, and said when parents and children come into the library and see a book in their own language from their own culture, it would make a world of difference.
“This book will be great in many many aspects, especially maintaining the culture, a sense of belonging in the community,” Mr Azimi said.
“This book brings a lot of smiles and happiness for lots of the children and mothers and families in Bendigo.”
Mr Azimi works in refugee resettlement in Bendigo and understands the difficulties they experience arriving in a new culture with a largely unknown language.
Due to violence and instability in their homelands, many parents endured lives with limited educational opportunities.
It makes them even more determined to ensure their children receive an education, and fills them with pride when they see them learning English, Mr Azimi said.
“All the refugees I meet, their first goal is to learn English,” he said.
“When they are settling in Bendigo, they would all like to participate in an economic and social life, and they want to be fully participating.
“Education is very important to them, especially for their children.
“The main reason is that they have been deprived, living in an area like Afghanistan or somewhere else where getting an education is often impossible because of war and discrimination. You are not allowed to learn because you are such an ethnicity.
“They know how precious education is. They just want their children to be educated.
“One thing that amazed me is that the children are learning very quickly, especially the language. They want to pick up the Aussie accent!”
At the same time, they want their children to understand the culture of their family to give them a sense of belonging. Studies have also proven the advantages of growing up bilingual and with an understanding of multiple cultures.
The children’s books are designed for this purpose.
Project consultant Tayla Hansen asked Bendigo schools and early learning centres if they would like to be involved in a story telling using the books.
She has already visited eight early learning centres and primary schools in Kangaroo Flat and Kennington to take part in readings.
“We sent out an expression of interest and we had an overwhelming response from schools and early learning centres,” Ms Hansen said.
The books were funded as part of a $40,000 grant provided to the City of Greater Bendigo from the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the funding in 2015 at the height of the anti-mosque protests.
He met with Bendigo Interfaith Council members during the visit and spoke about how “troubled” he had been by the content of the protests, and believed they were not representative of the Bendigo community.
Ms Hansen said refugees deserved the same rights as anyone else living in Bendigo – the ability to live in a welcoming, inclusive and culturally safe place.
“All of the people involved in these book live in our community. This is a voice of our community,” she said.
The Legend of Buz-e-Chini and Counting With Karen Culture are available from all nine libraries in the Goldfields Library network.
They can also be purchased from Kids’ Own Publishing.