Indigenous Literacy Day aims to raise awareness of the need to improve literacy levels among Indigenous children. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) coordinates a range of fundraising events across Australia to raise urgently needed funds to put books into the hands of families in remote communities, run story writing workshops and publish the stories of young Indigenous authors. The ILF is a not-for-profit organisation that is supported by the Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Booksellers Association and the Australian Society of Authors, along with a team of ambassadors, volunteers and three full-time staff.
One of the ILF priority areas this year is to translate books into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Within State Library collections, there are a number of children’s books written in first languages. These include bilingual texts dating back to the 1970’s when several bilingual programs were in place across Cape York and the Torres Strait as well as contemporary publications and virtual books.
Other language texts within the collection include a series of readers known as PCAP Readers – this initiative was part of the Priority Country Area Program in the late 1980-1990’s period. These readers were locally produced and based around stories from the children which were also illustrated by the children or community members. In 2011, State Library in partnership with Education Queensland to digitise 78 of these titles for online access, including several bilingual texts.
Dr Anita Heiss is one of six Lifetime Ambassadors for the program and is a strong advocate for Indigenous literacy seeing it as ‘essential to Aboriginal people’s self-determination’. The State Library collections have several of Anita’s books as well as an extensive selection of books, stories, prose, plays and other writings by Indigenous authors. Over 200 of these have been ‘tagged‘ to assist teachers and others to identify Indigenous literature materials within the collections.
Indigenous writing can enhance the levels of literacy in communities as it engages Indigenous readers with Indigenous characters and shared life experiences. The work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is valuable and deserves our support – for further details on Indigenous Literacy Day and suggestions for fundraising visit the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory
SLQ Indigenous Languages Webpages