Today is Indigenous Literacy Day, an Australian celebration of Indigenous culture, stories, language and literacy launched by The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF). If you've never heard of the ILF, I highly recommend viewing the video below to understand why they are so incredibly important.
When we were thinking about who could tell us a little bit more about Indigenous literature, we certainly didn't have to think for long as there was one woman that sprang to mind instantly...the phenomenal Dr Anita Heiss. (pictured above, left).Anita is not only a lifetime ambassador of The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, she's also one of Australia's most prolific and well-known authors publishing across numerous genres. Check out Anita's adult novels here, kids books here and her highly acclaimed anthology Growing up Aboriginal in Australia, oh and she also just happens to have amazing taste in jewels too.
Anita is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of Central New South Wales, but was born in Gadigal country, spent much of her life on Dharawal land near La Perouse, but is now living in Brisbane on Jagera and Turrbal country.
We chatted to Anita about the importance of Indigenous literature and literacy, and asked her how she thought the wider Australian community can help.
Anita gave us the following thought provoking responses, along with simple and effective ways you can get involved and show your support.
"Literature by Indigenous authors is important because it reflects the way we see ourselves, our truths in history, our lives and contributions to society today. Our literature not only showcases where we fit into the national literary landscape, but where we sit on the Australian identity radar
It’s essential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children see themselves in the books they read and can relate to the experiences of the characters they engage with on the page.
Many, if not most Indigenous people in remote communities speak more than two or three local languages, which demonstrates their knowledge and intelligence. But the reality is they are surrounded in their daily lives by communications in English. Warning information, signs and labels that keep people safe. Information on food packaging that allow for healthy choices. Street signs to get to places. These are basic daily needs in terms of being literate in English.
Just as important, is the capacity and desire for young Indigenous kids to read books that bring them joy. Books that tell stories they can relate to in both English and their own languages. Books that entertain, engage and also educate. Books that improve literacy so that they too can live a full life, because I know first-hand that reading opens doors to all of life’s wonderful opportunities.
Kids who can read English can search the internet and see what’s happening around the world. They can have conversations with other young people outside their communities. They can be social on a different level. This is not to diminish what they have which is rich and significant. Literacy just provides more opportunities, which many of us take for granted every day – including having access to books in our homes, in school libraries, and in public libraries."
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation makes such a HUGE difference to the lives of Indigenous families by not only helping kids learn how to read, but also running programs inspiring communities to tell and publish their own stories.
We think of our own childhoods and all the children around us now, we have books written in our own language everywhere around us, it's certainly easy to see how we can take that for granted.
Our ask to you? Spend 3 mins watching the below video, share it and perhaps hold a Great Book Swap. Let's celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day together! It's an important topic and conversation not just for First Nation Australians, but it's also an opportunity to create more awareness and a deeper understanding for all Australians.