In her own small way, Blackheath's Charmaine Ledden-Lewis is illustrating the truth of the Stolen Generations.
Working alongside her 'hero', author 'Uncle Bruce' Pascoe, she has captured in sunburnt colours the heartfelt story of a calf whose family is taken away, but is eventually reunited with its mother.
Pascoe is the author of Dark Emu, a hugely successful book which challenged traditional notions of pre-colonial Aborigines as simple hunter-gatherers.
For Ledden-Lewis, a descendant of the Bundjalung people on the Clarence River in Northern NSW, Pascoe's story Found had a strong sub-text about Indigenous suffering and the forced removal of children.
"Every reading would help me discover greater depth in Bruce's words, which in turn would prompt me to marvel at the parallels in the story between a lost and lonely calf and the Stolen Generations, of which my family is a part of."
Her great grandmother was raised on the Warangesda mission in NSW and later sent into domestic service. Her great grandmother was three months old when she arrived with her mother at the mission, although Ledden-Lewis believes they were separated.
"My great great grandmother was an unmarried Aboriginal woman with a three month old baby. It was either coercion or by force [that she ended up at the mission].
"When someone is removed from family, from country, from culture and a government body actively works to deny that person access to that, it ripples for generations to come," she said.
Ledden-Lewis said there was a time in recent history where it was "shameful to be Aboriginal".
"It's been a big part of my life to see my grandmother embrace her culture and stand proud ... it was a scary time being a black kid in the '40s and '50s ... to see that turnaround in attitude that's happening right now, I am blessed to be able to witness that."
Ledden-Lewis said when she saw her book in Blackheath Gleebooks and Megalong Books in Leura recently, she felt "part of her soul" was on the shelves.
"It jolts you," she said. "As a country we are working to reclaim that [Aboriginal] culture and for me in many ways, [it's been] the way my mum raised me and this book."
Published by Magabala Books, Found, was released in bookstores this month. Found is the result of the biennial Kestin Indigenous Illustrator award for emerging Indigenous illustrators, which "teams a somebody with a nobody" she said. Ledden-Lewis also picked up $10,000 in prize money and the mentorship from Pascoe, as well as help from an established publishing team of editors and illustrators.
"We worked really hard ... it's been a fantastic ride ... it's about healing and hope," the mother of two said.