Monday, 6 Jan 2020
Australia’s first animated series featuring Indigenous characters and storylines, Little J & Big Cuz was conceptualised by the ACER Foundation, the charitable arm of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).
The series is designed to help Indigenous children get a better start in their formal schooling by modelling the day-to-day running of an early primary classroom. Episodes follow lead characters Little J and Big Cuz as they enjoy common school experiences like show-and-tell, lunch breaks and school performances.
Little J & Big Cuz is also notable for its role in demystifying Indigenous culture for non-Indigenous children. A suite of free Little J & Big Cuz educator resources mapped to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum is available to support early childhood educators and primary school teachers in including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, understanding and skills in their teaching and learning programs. Case studies developed as part of an evaluation of the series revealed that using Little J & Big Cuz in education settings supported learners’ emotional development and wellbeing, assisted language development and presented educators with many teachable moments.
Little J & Big Cuz is created by a team of Indigenous writers and animators, led by director Tony Thorne. The voice cast features renowned Indigenous actors Miranda Tapsell (Little J), Deborah Mailman (Big Cuz), Aaron Fa’aoso (Old Dog) and Ningali Lawford-Wolf (Nanna).
In memoriam: Ningali Lawford-Wolf
Ms Lawford-Wolf recorded her part in Little J & Big Cuz season two shortly before her unexpected death at the age of 52 in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August 2019.
A Wangkatjunka woman born at Christmas Creek Station in the far-north Kimberley region of Western Australia, Ningali trained as a dancer with the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, then joined Bangarra Dance Company before building an illustrious career on stage and on screen.
Her film and television roles included the critically acclaimed Rabbit-proof Fence and Bran Nue Dae, and ABC TV’s Mystery Road and The Circuit. She won awards for her international one-woman stage show Ningali, as well as for productions of Aliwa, Uncle Vanya and Jandamarra. Ms Lawford-Wolf was starring in the stage adaptation of The Secret River for the Sydney Theatre Company when she was hospitalised before passing away on 11 August.
In Little J & Big Cuz, Ms Lawford-Wolf brought huge energy and charisma to the role of Nanna. Both are wise, warm, funny and inspiring, a legacy that lives on in her influence over a new generation of Australians.
Ms Lawford-Wolf is survived by her children Jaden, Rosie, Alexander, William and Florence, and her grandchildren Zavia and Mia. ACER pays its respects to Ms Lawford-Wolf’s family and community, and thanks them for granting permission to show her performance as Nanna. In a statement to NITV, her family said, ‘Her career was a big part of who she was, and she would have wanted to continue to share her work.’
Episode 13 of Little J & Big Cuz season two will be dedicated to Ms Lawford-Wolf in memoriam.
How to watch
Season two of Little J & Big Cuz will air on NITV every Friday from 10 January at 7.30 pm and will be available on SBS On Demand following broadcast.
Educator resources and the Where is Aaron? ebook are available at www.littlejandbigcuz.com.au
Awards and credits
Little J & Big Cuz has been embraced by Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and communities all over Australia.
In addition to winning the 2018 Logie Award for ‘most outstanding children’s program’, Little J & Big Cuz won the Australian Teachers of Media’s 2017 SAE ATOM Award for Best Children’s Television Program and the inaugural Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network award. Writer Erica Glynn won a 2018 Australian Writers’ Guild Award in the Children’s Television (Preschool) category for her episode, ‘Where’s Aaron?’, and co-writer Beck Cole was nominated for her episode, ‘Lucky Undies’, in the same category.
Little J & Big Cuz season one was developed in partnership with Ned Lander Media, SNAICC, NITV, Screen Australia, Screen Tasmania, Film Victoria, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Dusseldorp Forum and Lotterywest. Season two was further supported with principal production investment from NITV in association with the ABC.