The Power of Story
Indigenous Literacy Foundation
Northern Territory, AUS
4x4 D-MAX LS-M
Charitable Work, Education
Travelling long distances on rough roads to remote Communities is part of the job for the team at the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
After all, where many of them work, the landscapes are mesmerising, the skies are wide, the quiet is unbroken and the stories are, well, endless.
To help ensure these stories are part of Australia’s future as well as its histories, ILF is working closely with remote Communities across Australia to encourage, enable and celebrate storytelling. In particular, they’re working closely with kids in remote Communities to develop a love of reading from an early age.
As Zoe Cassim, ILF Programs Manager explains, reading opens the doors to opportunities and choices, so it’s an essential skill in our current society.
“We work with so many young people and if we empower them, and give them the opportunities and the choices, simply by equipping them with the tools to be able to read and see themselves in a book, then they're going to be the change makers,” says Zoe.
ILF has three key programs that they are currently conducting and managing.
Firstly, they provide new, culturally relevant books to Communities, schools and health centres. Over the past 11 years, they’ve delivered over 600,000 books to 400 Communities, and nearly half of those feature Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators.
“It’s all about getting books in the hands of families and young people,” says Zoe. “At the same time, we're trying to celebrate and elevate authors and illustrators across Australia.”
Secondly, there’s a program called Book Buzz, where kids get to immerse themselves in storytime and develop their reading skills alongside their families. Kept intentionally unstructured and fun, a Book Buzz session can sometimes involve finger puppets and building blocks designed to encourage interaction with the books.
And thirdly, the Community Publishing Program helps Communities to develop and publish their own stories in their chosen languages. Typically, a Community will get in touch with ILF and share a story idea. The ILF team is guided by Community processes and wishes, and if requested, supports the Community with mentoring, writing or art workshops, and the publishing process. The ILF also provides advice on commercial aspects, such as copyright and royalties.
Zoe explains that the power of kids seeing themselves, their First Languages and their cultures reflected in the stories is infinite.
“When they can tangibly see that their stories are valued, it’s empowering,” says Zoe. “The Elders love it too, because they can actually see the language and know that their cultures are going to be kept alive for future generations.”
According to Zoe, the team is on the road a lot, so they love having the D-MAX.
“Because it’s a 4WD, we can get to remote places and Communities without a worry,” says Zoe. “Everyone loves getting behind the wheel of the D-MAX and it makes travelling a breeze. It’s so reliable, safe, and comfortable.”
Another heart-warming ILF Program is the Creative Initiative, which is delivered in tandem with several big publishing houses. As part of this program, ILF takes senior students to Sydney and Melbourne for a week, where they participate in workshops with ILF ambassadors, create a book and learn publishing skills in a hands-on environment. At the end of the week, they are given a printed copy of the book that they created.
“It's a really beautiful way to open up opportunities and to inspire kids who actually want to be writers, and to acknowledge that they've got the knowledge and skills that should be celebrated,” says Zoe.
ILF has plans to further expand its offer throughout Australia, reaching more remote Communities. But for them, a better measure of success is the impact of their programs on future generations.
“If you can allow a child to tell you their story, that’s the most powerful thing,” says Zoe. “You see them come to life, and they actually enjoy reading because the colour of their skin is represented, and the words in there are relevant to them.”