Closing the Gap, the Prime Minister’s 2016 report on Indigenous disadvantage, is being handed down in Federal Parliament this week. Among its key points are that improving literacy requires a twofold approach: “addressing early childhood education, and accelerating learning for students currently at school”. (Closing the Gap report)

The report emphasises that a young child’s literacy and numeracy skills make an enormous difference for both their later schooling and their success at moving into employment.

A child’s ability to acquire good literacy and numeracy is associated with a positive start to life.” (Closing the Gap report)

The report also recognises the importance of early learning — and that parents, families and communities are a child’s first teachers.

Our Foundation supports the government initiative to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the opportunity to participate in early childhood education, particularly in the year immediately before they start school.

We know that Indigenous children living in remote communities who are “school ready” will have a more positive experience transitioning to school.

In many remote communities there are few or no kids’ books, essential tools in developing and accelerating literacy — and that’s where our Book Buzz and Book Supply programs are making a real difference.

The Book Buzz early literacy program delivers books for babies and infants, and the Book Supply program supports books for older children.

Having books in the home, and in the community too, means that parents can read to their babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers on a daily basis. Not only is this empowering for the parents, but also it helps build critical literacy skills and school readiness for the young children.” Tina Raye, ILF Program Manager.

We also support those initiatives already in place, such as Families as First Teachers –Indigenous Parenting Support Services Program, which are aimed at making sure that their parents receive the support and recognition they need as their children’s first teachers.

Already our Foundation is working with remote communities across Australia to close the gap on disadvantage. We work closely with community elders, carers, educators, health professionals, parenting and playgroup services, and women’s centres to make books available to babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers who may otherwise have no access to literacy materials.

We know just how important it is that all young children in Australia have opportunities to learn and develop literacy skills in the years before they head off to school.

Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a positive start to life will strengthen their opportunities later in life.” (Closing the Gap report)