The Plant Hunter 

Kirli Saunders is many things. A proud Gunai woman, an accomplished children’s author, a storyteller and a motorcycle enthusiast. She’s also a leader of the Poetry in First Languages project, a Red Room Poetry initiative that sees First Nations poets create poems in First Nations languages with their Elders. We caught up with Kirli recently to talk about cultivating connections with Country and Mother Earth through the power of words…. continue reading.


Narwee Public School

On November 27, Students at Narwee Public School joined The Literature Centre’s Author in Residence and Proud Gunai woman, Kirli Saunders, a south coast based Author, poet, playwright and educator to explore her creative process and love of motorbikes, surfing and other Freedom Machines. Kirli led students through a series of curriculum-linked interactive performances and workshops, supporting them to create their own Freedom Machines for social impact


photo credit: Jodie Wells- Slowgrove

PIFL Dharawal Workshops

Developed by Gunai poet Kirli Saunders and delivered by Red Room Poetry, Poetry in First Languages (PIFL) celebrates, shares and preserves knowledge of First Nations languages and culture through poetry, music and art.

On Nov 22, on Dharwal country at Bargo Public School,  Kirli Saunders will collaborate with Aunty Jodi Edwards to teach PIFL workshops focusing on poetry creation and publication in Dharawal with First Nations students. Poems from the workshops will be published in language on the Red Room Poetry website.


Wollongong Writers Festival

Join Guest curator, Lorin Elizabeth chats to local author and poet, Kirli Saunders and award-winning illustrator, Matt Ottley about their new picture book The Incredible Freedom Machines. They investigate the intricacies of collaboration and screen a trailer for the upcoming live musical adaptation, The Sound of Picture Books.

Date: Saturday 24 November 2018 at 12:30pm-1:45pm
Tickets:  $15/ Festival Pass 
Location: Wollongong Art Gallery | 46 Burelli Street, Wollongong, NSW 2500
Visit the Wollongong Writers Festival website to see the full program and to get your discounted pass. Otherwise, follow this link to find out more.


Appin Public School

On November 16, Students joined Illawarra based, Proud Gunai woman, Kirli Saunders, an international Children’s Author, poet and educator to explore her creative process and love of motorbikes, surfing and other Freedom Machines. Kirli led students through interactive 30-45 minute author Q+A presentations as she reflected on her journey into writing and boundary-breaking.

Kirli also led intensive creative writing workshops with selected students to support the development of their own creative practice and literary works.

Robertson Public School

On November 9, Kirli led Robertson Public School students through interactive 30-45 minute author Q+A presentations as she reflected on her journey into writing and boundary-breaking, encouraging students to reach out to their heroes, to pursue their own dreams and to collaborate with others.

Tad Souden Photo (119 of 148)

Photo Credit: Tad Souden

PIFL Gadigal Workshops

Developed by Gunai poet Kirli Saunders and delivered by Red Room Poetry, Poetry in First Languages (PIFL) celebrates, shares and preserves knowledge of First Nations languages and culture through poetry, music and art.

Red Room Poetry brought PIFL to Gadigal country, with the support of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, NASCA and Art Gallery of NSW.

On 5 November, students from Alexandria Park Community School, Laramba School and Ntaria School connected to culture, country and language through poetry, art, bush medicine and traditional Indigenous Games. Poems from the project in language will be published in a poetic art installation at the Gardens from December 2018.

The language and poetry workshops, facilitated by RR with poet Kirli Saunders and Gadigal language custodian Joel Davison. The project mainly focused on Gadigal language, but NT students were encouraged to write in their own First Languages, Anmatjere/ Warlpiri and Western Arrernte.


On Gadigal land, PIFL is supported by Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, NASCA and Art Gallery of NSW.

Writing Place with Mark Tredinnick, Kirli Saunders and Ethan Bell

A two-day workshop on nature writing and the evocation of place, led by Mark Tredinnick (“one of our great poets of place”) and Kirli Saunders—Gunai woman, poet, educator, and children’s author.  The workshop includes a welcome to country and a walk in the nearby Dharawal National Park led by Ethan Bell, Ngunnawal man and Campbelltown local.

When: Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st of October, 10am-4pm

Where: 391 Wedderburn Rd, Campbelltown Writers’ Retreat at Wedderburn

Cost: $150 for members, $220 for non-members

Mark Tredinnick
—whose many books include Almost Everything I Know, Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, The Blue Plateau, and The Little Red Writing Book—is a celebrated poet, essayist, and writing teacher. “One of our great poets of place,” Judy Beveridge has called him. His honours include the Montreal and Cardiff Poetry Prizes, The Blake and Newcastle Poetry Prizes, two Premiers’ Literature Awards, and the Calibre Essay Prize. The Blue Plateau, his landscape memoir, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Prize. He travels and teaches widely, in schools and at festivals, through Australia and in the US and UK. and he works with the corporate sector to explore the truths and graces poetry gives access to. Last year his poem “The Horse” won the ACU Poetry Prize; in March 2017, his poem “Panic Very Softly, Love” won the Ron Pretty Poetry Prize. In 2017, too, he judged the Montreal and Blake Poetry Prizes.

Three of Mark’s poems—“Sandhill Cranes,” “Frogmouth on the Wire,” and “Catching Fire”—translated by Isabelle Li, appear in Famous Writing in World Literature, published by ZZHW (The Writers Publishing House), in November 2017. In November, a collection of poems he wrote inhouse in 2016 for the landscape architecture firm TCL, appears in book form: Anthology: Gardening the Future: An Essay in Plants, Poetry, and Image.

Andrew Motion has written of Mark Tredinnick: “his is a bold, big-thinking poetry, in which ancient themes (especially the theme of our human relationship with landscape) are recast and rekindled.” He is at work on a memoir of the reading life, Reading Slowly at the End of Time. His next Australian collection of poems, Days and Nights, will be published by Pitt Street Poetry in mid 2017; a fourth collection, Walking Underwater, appears in the US (Hip Pocket Press) later that year. He’s just finished a collaboration, A Hundred Miles From Home: One Hundred Haiku, with poet Peter Annand and painter John R Walker. “Like the singing of the birds he loves,” Jean Kent has said, “Mark Tredinnick’s poetry feels artlessly beautiful.”

Mark Tredinnick is the father of five. He lives and writes at Picton.

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai woman with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people. Kirli is the Manager of Poetic Learning and Aboriginal Cultural Liaison at Red Room Poetry. She was awarded ‘Worker of the Year 2017’ at the NAIDOC awards in the Illawarra/ Shoalhaven region and has been nominated for a National NAIDOC award in 2018. Kirli founded the Poetry in First Languages project. Her first children’s picture book The Incredible Freedom Machines, illustrated by Matt Ottley was selected for Bologna Book Fair and is published internationally in French and English. Her second picture book Our Dreaming will be released by Scholastic in December 2019, Happy Ever After will follow in July 2020. Kirli’s First Poetry Collection, Kindred is to be released by Magabala in December 2019, it was Highly Commended in the 2018 Black&Write! prize. Kirli’s poem ‘A Dance of Hands’ was Runner-up in the Nakata Brophy Prize. Kirli’s poetry has been published by Cordite and Overland and has embedded in infrastructure at Darling Harbour and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne. In 2018, Kirli was Writer in Residence at Bundanon Trust, Q Station and The Literature Centre, Fremantle for ‘The Sound of Picture Books’.

On Grief and Joy:

A Conversation on the importance of the lyric expression of lament and grief and joy, with Darius Sepehri, Kirli Saunders, and Mark Tredinnick.

When: Friday 12 October 2018 6:30pm–8:30pm

Where: Campbelltown library, 1 Hurley St, Campbelltown NSW 2560

To book, email your name and phone number with subject line On Grief to hajer@westwords.com.au

It is often said we don’t do grief well in the West. One of the uses of lyric poetry is to give form to the sadness that accompanies the joys of human existence—to make it beautiful and bearable. All good poetry articulates love, and it sings all our grief, as Judith Wright once put it. Good grief, lyric lament, the kind that heals, animates, in particular, the poetry of Hafez and Gabir and Rumi and other poets in the Mystic tradition, a tradition studied by Persian speaker and scholar Darius Sepehri; it also sings in Indigenous literature. Join Darius, Indigenous poet Kirli Saunders, and acclaimed Australian poet Mark Tredinnick, for an evening of poetry and a conversation about how to make our lives worthy of our suffering.


More information can be found here.


Reconciliation Council of NSW

Digital Workshops

On September 11 and 12, Kirli Saunders led digital workshops for the NSW Reconciliation Council in partnership with MAAS for over 1000 students from 20 schools. The workshops explored students understandings of Reconciliation and encouraged them to write to this year’s NSW Reconciliation Council School Challenge theme: Our Voices, Our Future. Students were prompted to consider their own visions for reconciliation and write postcards from the future, back to their present selves about the changes evident in a reconciled Australia.


The Sound of Picture Books

From September 3-7, 2018, Kirli Saunders was Writer in Residence at The Literature Centre Fremantle, for The Sound of Picture Books. Kirli Saunders narrated her debut book, The Incredible Freedom Machines and John Marsden’s Home and Away alongside Matt Ottley’s original compositions, brought to life the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra with pianist, Alf Demasi. Over 2000 students from 11 schools engaged in the workshops. You can read more here. Special thanks go to the wonderful team at The Literature Centre Fremantle, WASO and Matt Ottley.

During her residency, Kirli also worked on a manuscript, Mother Speaks exploring the language of the earth.

Raining Poetry

Raining Poetry

Raining Poetry in Adelaide makes cold winter days a little bit less grey by tagging poems temporarily onto the pavement of Adelaide streets in rain activated paint. Kirli’s poem was one of 29 selected from hundreds of entries and will be on display from September 5th. Find out more. 

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Book Week

This year, Kirli celebrated Book Week by presenting Interactive Author Talks exploring the creative process, boundary breaking and visual literacies with students from K-12 at the following South Coast Schools:

  • Terara Public School
  • Waniora Public School
  • Corrimal High School
  • Jervis Bay Public School
  • Nowra Public School
  • St Michaels Primary School
  • Bomaderry Public School
  • Nowra East Public School
  • Cedars Christian College
  • Figtree High School

Read the article from Cedars Christian College about Kirli’s visit and book your School workshop.



Unspoken Words Youth Workshops

Unspoken Words is a multi-disciplinary artist collective. Their artistic practice is influenced by industry experience as well as backgrounds in community work, activism, and events organization. Although their main focus is writing, they love (and program) storytelling in many modes: spoken word, music, movement, and visual.

Kirli Saunders will deliver Unspoken Words Youth Workshops for classrooms from September 7-17. You can bring storytelling to your classroom or youth group! Primary workshops run by award-winning Gunai poet, writer and teacher Kirli Saunders. Secondary workshops run by spoken word artist and political activist Pola Fanous.

Get your school or youth group involved by contacting unspokenwords.festival@gmail.com.

Writer in Residence – Bundanon Trust

Kirli will be writer in residence at Bundanon Trust for Book Week 2018. She’ll share readings of The Incredible Freedom Machines and explore her creative process with 270 students from Jervis Bay PS, Nowra PS, St Michaels, Bomaderry PS and Nowra East PS. During her residency, Kirli will also lead Poetry in First Languages – Yuin workshops with local Custodians, Jacob Morris and Adrian Webster and students from Jervis Bay PS and Nowra East PS, encouraging them to create poetry in Gumea Dharawal about the local landscape and their own perceptions of identity.

NAIDOC Week 2018


The theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week from July 8-15 is ‘Because of her, we can’. Read the articles below on Kirli’s contribution to NAIDOC week in her community:

ABC Illawarra, ‘Aboriginal poet Kirli Saunders rediscovers identity and teaches students to own languages’

Illawarra Mercury: Poetry in First Languages published on Bus Backs 

Illawarra Mercury: Book Launch Highlights NAIDOC Week Events at UOW

Southern Highlands News: All about Reaching and Teaching for NAIDOC week

Tumbalong Gatherers


Darling Square and Darling Quarter with Red Room Poetry acknowledge the invaluable contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women through poetic moments.

First Nation Poets Jeanine Leane (Wiradjuri), Kirli Saunders (Gunai & Gundungurra Custodian), Joel Davison (Gadigal), Evelyn Araluen Corr (Tharawal), Ali Coby Eckermann (Yankunytatjara), Lorna Munro (Wiradjuri/Gamilaroi) present their heartfelt words alongside the visual work of artist, David Cragg.

Immerse yourself in the evocative words of some of Australia’s finest poets on the NAIDOC theme of ‘Because of Her We Can’. Lean into the beautiful languages of our nation’s First People, create a short poem or just let the words flow over you.

Visit the exhibition Friday 6 July – Wednesday 25 July

The exhibition will be installed at Darling Square and Darling Quarter.

Performances Friday 20 July & Saturday 21 July

Darling Square at 5 – 5.30pm & Darling Quarter at 6 – 6.30pm

Join proud Gadigal Poet, Joel Davison and proud Gunai poet Kirli Saunders as they perform poetic works from the Tumbalong Gatherers Exhibition at Darling Square and Darling Quarter over two nights.

Snap a photo of our train banners!

To celebrate NAIDOC week, Red Room Poetry has published excerpts of poetry from Gadigal poet Joel Davison. Share a photo with us on instagram @RedRoomPoetry with the hastag #gadigalpoetry.

Contribute a poem

Red Room Poetry is holding a Twitter poetry competition. Created with community consultation, this competition is about community interactivity, encouraging people to mindfully engage with Gadigal language, poetry and art.

Find out more

UOW – The Incredible Freedom Machines Book Launch


Join the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Social Sciences, Early Start Discovery Space and Alumni Relations Team as we launch Kirli Saunders’ debut picture book, The Incredible Freedom Machines, illustrated by Matt Ottley.

The Incredible Freedom Machine follows the wondrous adventures of a young girl with her newly unearthed Freedom Machine. This story encourages students to break boundaries and dream beyond the ordinary.

The book will be available to purchase, and Kirli will be doing a book signing session following a Q&A. Morning tea will be provided.

This event is being held in our Early Start Building (Building 21), in our Christopher and Barbara Abbott Gallery Space located on Level 1.

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai woman and UOW Alumni. She is the Manager of Poetic Learning and Cultural Liaison at Red Room Poetry. Kirli founded the Poetry in First Languages project. She is the author of The Incredible Freedom Machines(2018), Our Dreaming (2019) and Happy Ever After (2020). Her poetry collection, Mother, Earth Child, Lover is to be released by Magabala Books in 2019. Kirli was Runner Up in the Nakata Brophy Prize, 2017 and was Highly Commended in Black&Write! 2018. She has been published by Red Room Poetry, Cordite and Overland. In 2018, Kirli will be writer in residence at Bundanon Trust, Q Station and Fremantle Writers Centre.

Register your attendance here.

Kids & YA Festival

This year’s festival includes a diverse and inspiring range of some of Australia’s most prominent authors, illustrators, publishers, and industry professionals. Join Kirli Saunders at the Writing NSW Kids & YA Festival for Picture Books with Heart, Hope and Humour, a panel with Paul Russell, Dub Leffler, Aura Parker, and Sarah Davis (chair) exploring the joys and difficulties of writing picture books tackling diverse themes such as creativity, imagination, courage, freedom, identity, and dementia.

Download the program here.

Author Talks


Kirli Saunders debut picture book, The Incredible Freedom Machines, illustrated by Matt Ottley follows the wondrous adventures of a young girl with her newly unearthed Freedom Machine. This story encourages students to break boundaries and dream beyond the ordinary.

On June 15, Wollongong West Public School Students joined Kirli for discussions about her first book, journey into writing, her love of freedom machines, motorbikes and of breaking boundaries.

Students in K-2 created a soundscape with Kirli and moved through some Drama exercises while students in years 3-6 were prompted to write about their own freedom machines and to explore the creative writing process.


The theme for Refugee Week this year is ‘REFUGEES BRING MORE THAN THEY CARRY’ –– When refugee entrants come to a new country, they bring who they are – their own story, skills, and experience, enriching their new homes and communities.

Join Kirli with Red Room Poetry, SCARF, Illawarra Multicultural Services, Kindart Ed and local creatives as we celebrate Refugee Week 2018 with SHARE!

Date: June 20, 2018

Location: Town Hall, Wollongong

Find out more.

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The Incredible Freedom Machines Book Launch

The Incredible Freedom Machines is a poetic and visual feast from debut author, Kirli Saunders and award-winning illustrator, Matt Ottley. The Incredible Freedom Machines follows a young girl as she uncovers her very own precious machine that carries her to all sorts of wonderful places.

Join Kirli Saunders in conversation children’s author, Yvette Poshoglian for the launch of her debut picture book at her favourite writing space, Lower East Cafe (70 Crown Street, Wollongong, New South Wales 2500), 26 May, 2018. Light refreshments will be available from 2:15, with a discussion, starting 2:30pm. A book signing will follow.

RSVP and find out more.

Feature Article


Kirli & her 2013 Triumph Thruxton, Knox at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. 

CityCoast Motorcycles published a feature article on Kirli ahead of the launch of The Incredible Freedom Machines. You can read more about Kirli’s love of writing and riding motorcycles here.

Girls Write Up


Girls Write Up is a daylong festival for teens aged 12–18 that teaches empowerment through writing and sharing stories; explores the relationship between language, gender and power; and examines the effects of unconscious bias on our sense of self.

Girls Write Up Sydney 2018 will feature speakers including Zoya Patel, Michelle Law, Erin Gough, Saman Shad, Lizzie Nagy, Jenna Guillaume and Kirli Saunders along with many others. Participants will also have the opportunity to sign up for one of several practical workshops, focusing on skills such as writing from place, slam poetry, creative non-fiction, pitching or graphic narratives (workshop places limited).

Find out more.


Book Week at Bundanon

Gunai poet and children’s author, Kirli Saunders will return to Bundanon Trust as the 2018 Bundanon Book Week author. Kirli will present to local primary school students on Tuesday 14 August 2018 at Riversdale. Whilst in residence, Kirli will deliver workshops for her Poetry in First Languages (PIFL) project.

Find out more.

Nakata Brophy Poetry Prize

The Nakata Brophy Short Fiction and Poetry Prize recognises the talent of young Indigenous writers across Australia. Sponsored by the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College, the prize alternates each year between fiction and poetry; this year’s prize is for the best poem (up to 88 lines) by an Indigenous writer under 30.

First place is $5000, publication in Overland’s print magazine, and a three-month writing residency at Trinity College, the oldest student residence at the University of Melbourne; two runner-up prizes are also awarded.

Overland, Trinity College and the judges for the 2017 competition – Jeanine Leane, Toby Fitch and Gayle Allen – are pleased to announce the three writers who placed in the 2017 competition, Raelee Lancaster, Kirli Saunders and Susie Anderson.


The Sound of Picture Books

From September 3-7, 2018, Kirli will be Writer in Residence at the Fremantle Literature Centre for The Sound of Picture Books‘ The Incredible Freedom Machines multimodal performances with Matt Ottley and the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

All performances are tailored to the age groups attending and feature WASO’s superb string quintet, Yamaha’s Alf Demasi, Kirli’s story narration and Matt Ottley’s illustrations shown on a large screen.  Matt also demonstrates his illustration and composition techniques.  Audiences of all ages will be captivated!

Sessions will fill fast so book early to secure your date and time preference.  Contact The Literature Centre – phone 08 9430 6869 or email info@thelitcentre.org.au. 

The Drum, ABC & AIME

Kirli was invited to share her work as a writer and in the realm of First Nations Langauge revitalization with ABC’s The Drum for an AIME initiative. She worked with Illawarra based videographer extraordinaire, Tad Souden to create her application.

Poetry in First Languages Workshops, Gundungurra Country


On 19-21 March, Gunai poet Kirli Saunders guided students from Moss Vale High SchoolMittagong Public School and Moss Vale Public School through the Poetry in First languages resource, specific to Gundungurra Country. Students were connected to First Nations Poets, Elders and Language Custodians on Country, strengthening the connection of First Nations students to Country, language and community to empower students to feel pride in their cultural identities.  Listen to Kirli, with Ewan and Shayla from Moss Vale High School talking about their PIFL with ABC Illawarra.

See the Red Room Poetry blog post.


Merrigong Talking Point – Indigenous Women Driving Social Change

Join us for the first Talking Point of the year, with special guests award-winning First Nations poet Kirli Saunders (Red Room Poetry) as she takes her seat to discuss the current place of First Nations writing in Australia. On the back of the success of contemporary works like ABC TV’s ‘Black Comedy’ and ‘Cleverman’, and stage works ‘Barbara and the Camp Dogs’ and ‘Black is the New White’, First Nations writing on our stage and screen has never been stronger, and this first Talking Point for 2018 will put some of the Illawarra’s strongest female voices in discussion. This Talking Point will be facilitated by Merrigong Artistic Development Manager, Leland Kean.