Page 42 - Print21 Magazine Jan-Feb 21
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                Essential Print
      Delivering print to country
Printed books are on the front line in the battle to empower remote and isolated Indigenous communities throughout Australia with literacy.
At a time when there is greater commitment to bridge the inequality gap, printed books, especially in original languages, provide an initial step in helping children and elders access their own culture. They help to preserve important stories while imparting literacy skills necessary to address
haphazard charity has grown into a dynamic national movement intent on empowering Australia’s First Nations people through access to culturally relevant books and learning resources, books with language translations and books created
by communities in languages of their choice.
From little things
The ILF began delivering books to remote communities in 2003 with the first delivery of six boxes to Katherine in the NT. Initially the fledgling organisation partnered with the Fred Hollows Foundation, which had a widespread network of contacts and offices in communities. In 2010, as it grew, the ILF was
able to stand on its own. Therese Raine, well-known philanthropist and perhaps more widely known
as the wife of Kevin Rudd, was its first patron. It hired an Indigenous literacy facilitator and worked hard to lobby the publishing industry. That year it delivered 15,000 books to remote sites and raised half a million dollars. Four years later the delivery had grown to 42,000 volumes and in 2020 the ILF
raised $4.2m without government assistance to carry on the work.
  the contemporary world. Karen Williams talks to Patrick Howard about the importance of printed books to the communities.
The value and benefits of knowledge systems based on oral tradition are deeply engrained and ultimately satisfying for Australian
Indigenous communities. They fulfil the necessary requirements of a living and sustainable culture in the transmission of essential stories and myths from generation to generation. They provide
the mainspring of Indigenous understanding of the world as part of the longest continuous culture in human history.
But oral tradition, no matter
how valued and unique, must be supplemented by a mastering of literacy in order to alleviate illiteracy disadvantage in the Australian society of today. It should be no surprise to learn that in cultures predominantly informed by an oral
“We know reading opens doors to a world of better choices and opportunities.”
– Suzy Wilson, Founder
tradition, up to 70 per cent of adults in remote and isolated communities in Australia are functionally illiterate. The results for children in these communities are just as bad
if not worse, with Karen Williams, CEO of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, describing them as “disastrous,” their NAPLAN results often buried deep in official reports. The 2019 Naplan Report revealed that over 65 per cent of children in very remote communities in Grade 5 did not meet the minimum national standard
Addressing the challenges of Indigenous literacy, especially in remote and isolated communities, is the mission of the ILF, which this year celebrates 11 years as a standalone foundation and 16 since it began as the brainchild of Brisbane bookseller, Suzy Wilson. What started as a small
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