Community Literacy Projects

Community Literacy Projects focus on publishing books that are written or developed by community members. These books, many of which have been written by children, recognise the importance of community stories, respond to the requests from community, and have positive literacy outcomes. 

There are two distinct categories of books that ILF has been involved in publishing. These include stories written by children, and parenting or educational books, written in consultation with community members. To date, the ILF has published – across different partnerships – 42 books, of which 11 were published in Indigenous languages. 

“It’s a wonderful, positive experience for the young authors. It creates self-worth and identity for them to know their stories are important and who they are as individuals. They can become anything they want when they’re older and know what they’re capable of doing.’’

Jacinta Price, Warlpiri woman, singer/songwriter and Imparja TV presenter

2016 Community Literacy Projects

See details about these specific books and previous publications below. Click here to order. 

COMING SOON: Yakanarra Song Book

Jessie Wamarla Moora, Mary Purnjurr Vanbee, Walmajarri teachers from Wulungarra and Kulkarriya Community Schools and the children of Yakanarra Community School with Chris Aitken and Alison Lester

Ten beautifully illustrated songs in Walmajarri language and 4 in English. How the Walmajarri came to Yakanarra, their special places, the sounds of the animals and birds, hunting, fishing, and more.

COMING SOON: Kunbarlanja Kunbolk 

Students of Gunbalanya School with Alison Lester.

A colourfully illustrated story of the seasons, animals and landscape in Gunbalanya, and the activities and places that make it special to the kids who live there.

Shock 'Em

The Big River Hawks AFL team, Dr Anita Heiss, and the Hawthorn Football Club’s Indigenous Program with the Epic Good Foundation.

Eight players from Katherine have shared their stories of a love for football, their heroes and their special places. Stories full of tension, drama, highs and lows - along with plenty of shock 'em moments - that characterise playing in the biggest game in the AFL annual calendar.

The Goanna was Hungry and other stories... 

Spinifex Writing Camp with Ann James and Sally Morgan.

Created at a 5-day writing and illustrating camp in Tjuntjuntjara in WA. Stories of friendship and loyalty, experiments that go badly awry, and the best thing to do with a bone. Then there’s a story about a very scary goanna… 

Tiwi Girl

Tiwi College, Melville Island, in collaboration with HarperCollins and ILF ambassador Alison Lester.

It tells the story of Mia, a young Tiwi girl who is a character much like the students themselves. The fictional account provides readers with a window into their lives and emphasizes some of the challenges and the choices Tiwi girls are faced with. 

Nginingawila Ngirramini: Our Story 

Tiwi College, Melville Island, in collaboration with Hachette Australia and ILF ambassador Anita Heiss.

The book is a real celebration and window into the lives of these Tiwi Girls - their heroes, sacred places and their happiest memories.

How do these projects work?

All potential publishing projects have to go through a proposal process. They need to be in-line with our vision and strategy, and approved by our Board. 

Each project is different. Some involve working with the community, others involce translators, linguists, authors, illustrators, editors and artists. Once a book is published, the ILF organises an official launch with all relevant parties. 

Copies of the books are often gifted back to the community, and included in the following year's Book Supply program. 

Why publish stories from community?

There is great value in publishing stories from community. Children involved in the writing process feel excited about literacy, and when the whole community, and surrounding communties get involved, there is a buzz around reading and writing. 

The young authors become role models for other children – and this instills a sense of achievement in the whole community. The books show community members that their stories and experiences are valid and just as important as any other story that is published. 

The books give other readers, from other communities, a glimpse into the life of young people and their communities. Some of the ILF's resource books (Reading with Children, Mangarrayi and Yangman Plans and Animals) have been written to empower parents and community members to be involved in literacy development. 


“The book, Bangs 2 Jurrkuk, is absolute Gold. Not only Tiwi context – but Tiwi College context! A massive round of applause.”

- Ian Smith, Principal, Tiwi College.

“I would like to thank the ILF for helping us to make the book in Walmajarri because it’s very important to us and for our kids to have English and Walmajarri.”

- Jessie Moora, Walmajarri Elder and Teacher, Yakanarra School.

What language are the books published in?

We allow community members to help decide what language the books should be written in. Of our books published, 22 have been written in nine Indigenous languages and English, while another five include key words in first language. 

“These books are so important for the future of the children and for the elders of the community. To have their language recognised and respected is something that their culture can look on and be so proud of. We’re proud of the kids, they have worked so hard on their books and are proud of them!” 

- Helen Unwin, Principal, Yakanarra School

How are the projects funded?

While some Community Literacy Projects are funded by the ILF, some have received funding grants, sponsorship, or been published as a result of partnerships with other organisations. 

Community Literacy Program catalogue

Previous Projects

Mystery at Manyallaluk
By students from Manyallaluk School, NT

Manyallaluk School, in the Katherine region NT, has a thriving community garden. However, from time to time the odd vegetable or delicious piece of fruit goes astray. This was the inspiration for Mystery at Manyallaluk. Published with the help of the team behind the Yarning Strong series. 

No Way Yirrikipayi!

By students from Milikapiti School with Alison Lester, NT

No Way Yirrikipayi! is a humorous, clever and catchy story about a hungry crocodile.

In 2014, Middle Year students from Milikapiti School worked with Alison Lester to write the book. She returned in 2015 to Milikapiti School to finalise the book. With permission, this book incorporates the Tiwi names of all the animals featured in the story.

The Yirara Mix Book

By children across WA and NT, with the Pamela Lofts Bequest 

This Yirara Mix Book, a collection of short stories and poems, was made possible through a special bequest from Pamela Lofts. 

In partnership with Yirara College, Alice Springs, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Lional Fogarty and Lorna Munroe held workshops with students from across WA and NT. 

The Legends of Moonie Jarl

By Moonie Jarl (Wilf Reeves) and illustrated by Wandi (Olga Miller)

Published in 1964, this was the first Aboriginal children's book to be published. Written and illustrated by Butchella siblings, the book tells the stories of the Butchulla people, the Indigenous people of Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast, Queensland.

Ganbulapula Story

As told by Djalinda Yunupingu, launched at Garma Festival 2014

Ganbulapula Story, told by Djalinda Yunupingu was created in 2013 at Garma festival. Once Yuninpingu told the story, a students illustrated the work, guided by Alison Lester. 

Sharon Galleguillos, ILF Board Member and Lecturer at the University of Sydney, officially launched Ganbulapula Story at Garma Festival in 2014. 

Copies of this traditional story from Arnhem Land, were gifted to the Yolngu people and The Garma Institute. 

Bangs 2 Jurrukuk

By Tiwi College Students and John Danalis, NT

Following an ILF Ambassador Field Trip to the Tiwi Islands in August 2013, the Senior Girls of Tiwi College expressed a strong interest in writing a story. In partnership, ILF set up a week-long writing camp in Sydney for the girls to write and publish their story, which was launched in November 2013.

The book has been incorporated into ILF’s Book Supply to remote communities.

The Honey Ant Readers

By Margaret James, translated into Ngaanyatjarra Language, WA, 2014

ILF has funded the translations of Books 1 to 3 of The Honey Ant Readers series into six Indigenous languages in the Central Australian region. More than 1,450 translated books have already been gifted to organisations in remote communities in the region.

These three early readers focus on the remote desert environment and will soon be translated into a seventh language, Ngaanyatjarra, a very strong language spoken in the Ngaanyatjarra lands in the Western Australian desert.

The Honey Ant Readers

By Margaret James and language translators, board book editions, Central Australia, WA, SA and NT, 2014

ILF’s core focus is on early literacy and putting books into the homes and hands of babies and toddlers. In collaboration with Margaret James, we will redesign and republish The Honey Ant Reader Translations as board books, more suited to babies and young children, and to their families' homes.

Initially, 12 books – the first two readers translated into six Indigenous langages – will be made available as board books to parents, playgroups and schools in various remote communities around Australia.

Ready for School, Wilcannia 

By Patrick Ellis and the Paakantji Language Circle, NSW, 2014

Ready for School, Wilcannia has been developed for the Paakantji people of New South Wales. The picture book is aimed at helping parents and families prepare their kids for school through early learning at home and in the community.

The idea for the book came about when parents of Wilcannia community were concerned about their children not being ready for school. Through conversations with the principal of the school, Patrick Ellis, the parents expressed the need for such a book.

Growing Up in Nyirripi

By students from Nyirrpi School, NT 2013

Growing Up in Nyirrpi was inspired by the works of two students, Lisa Marshall and Desphina Brown, from a very small remote community school in Nyirrpi, a desert Warlpiri community, located 420 km north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

“Growing up in Nyirrpi is a collection of vignettes about childhood, showing the richness, variety and sheer exuberance of the children’s experiences living in a small, isolated desert community." - Virginia King, a teacher at Nyirrpi School.


By students from Yakanarra Community School, 2013

The Yakanarra Dogs/Yakanarrajangka Kunyarrwarnti like A Yakanarra Day, reflects the small community located in the foothills of St Georges Ranges in the Central Kimberley region of WA. It was written by the Junior School students of the school

It was created with ILF ambassadors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin, and published with the sponsorship of the Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund in English and Walmajarri in 2013. It was translated by two language teachers, Jessie Moora and Mary Vanbee, who teach at Yakanarra Community School.


By students from Yakanarra Community School, 2013

A Yakanarra Day/Wangki Yakanarrajangka is a beautiful book that captures the countryside, river, fishing and daily life from daybreak to dark time. Written by the Senior School students, it reflects the local community. 

It was created with ILF ambassadors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin, and published with the sponsorship of the Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund in English and Walmajarri in 2013. It was translated by two language teachers, Jessie Moora and Mary Vanbee, who teach at Yakanarra Community School. 

When the Flood Came to Cherbourg 

When the Flood Came to Cherbourg was inspired by Volunteering Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Natural Disaster Resilience Project workshops with the children of Cherbourg State School.

The story not only teaches children what to do in the event of a flood, it also gives an insight into the community at Cherbourg. It tells of children who ride bikes, swim and play footy together, who love to learn about their culture and who support each other when times are tough.

The book, dedicated to Berlene Faye Murray, was launched in Cherbourg on Friday 31 May 2013.

Don't Let Thursday Island Burn

A fire safety book by the children of Thursday Island, 2013

Efforts to improve fire awareness inspired the Thursday Island community to write Don’t Let Thursday Island Burn

The book was created during a series of workshops run by Volunteering Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Natural Disaster Resilience Project in partnership with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. 

The book provides fire-safety lessons using illustrations by children aged 3–13 years. Don’t Let Thursday Island Burn was nominated for the 2013 Queensland Closing the Gap award.

Playgroups: Playing to get ready for school

By Anne Shinkfield and Beryl Jennings, 2013

Playgroups: playing to get ready for school is a resource for any playgroup or early childhood learning centre to use for ideas and strategies. 


THE HONEY ANT READERS: Central Australia, NT and WA, 2012

In 2012, with sponsorship from the Mary McKillop Foundation, ILF funded the translation of The Honey Ant Readers into six languages in Central Australia and WA. These books were written by Margaret James, a linguist and teacher, who developed the resources with the support of elders in her local community.

The Honey Ant Readers series is a new research-based literacy program developed at the request of and in collaboration with Indigenous communities in Central Australia. The program is a progressive series of 20 books with themes, stories and illustrations consistent with Indigenous knowledge and culture and complemented by learning materials such as letter, word and picture cards, activity books, board games, song and rhyme books, and teacher resources that are easy to use. 

The series is relevant to the Australian curriculum and fun for all ages. Readers progress from Aboriginal English, the common language spoken in playgrounds and communities across the country, to Standard Australian English, along natural stages of language acquisition consistent with the recognised cognitive and social-psychological benefits of learning to read in first language, thus ensuring enhanced reading success.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow features 15 stories from children aged 6 to 9 who live in a very remote community Tjuntjuntjara in WA. 

A Student's Idea

In 2011, ILF received an email from Lachie Coman, a primary school student at Firbank Grammar in Melbourne. He had heard a little about remote communities and the difficulties of living in them and wanted to "do something". 

With the assistance and support of his school principal and his father, he organised a visit to a remote community. To fund the trip, Lachie, who was head of the school's environmental group, grew and sold vegetables from his school garden. Lachie approached ILF asking for advice on the best choice of books to take to the community and we gave him a range of books for the children.

While visiting the community Lachie spent a significant amount of time at the school. He worked in the school's garden, which became an important meeting point for him and the students at Tjuntjuntjara. The entire group wrote a book about the usefulness of a garden and some of the great things that can be grown – in this case, friendship.

This wonderful book is wholly the work of children. Any adult involvements in this project have only been as support mechanisms. Children have been in the driving seat from the start of this project to the production of this great story.  

Books in Dual Language Wilcannia and Menindee, NSW, July 2013

In July 2012, ILF launched two books written and developed in dual language with the support of local community members at Wilcannia. 

The books, No Tharlta on the Bus and Lenny and the Big Red Malka were written and published by Faith Baisden with the support of the Cultural Agency Literacy Fund, and were launched at a series of workshops in Menindee and at Wilcannia with children aged 5 to 9 years.

See full report of this in our field trip summary.


A songbook written by Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, illustrated by Ruby Hunter, 2012

"A huge thank you to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation for your generous donation to the Butcher Paper Texta Black Board and Chalk songbook that Ruby illustrated and which also has the CD of children’s songs written by Ruby and myself, inspired largely by children we met in Australia’s remote far north throughout Cape York and a documentary of the tour we took to those communities where the songs came to life. You have helped to make Ruby’s dream of releasing her children’s album come true." - Archie Roach, June 2012.

ILF was very proud to help sponsor the publication of this book of children's songs, beautifully illustrated with paintings by Ruby Hunter. Published in September 2012, the book includes a CD/DVD and continues to be an important resource for teachers and parents, building early-literacy skills through song, rhyme and rhythm.

MANGARRAYI AND YANGMAN Plants and Animals, 2011 and 2012

One of the many projects Debra Dank managed in 2011 was the funding of a community-initiated book that captured the diverse and rich Aboriginal knowledge of plants, animals and landscapes in Mangarrayi and Yangman country. 

This part of the NT is home to the magnificent Elsey National Park and the country where the iconic book (and film) We of the Never Never was set. This resource book is significant, as the community was losing many of the local elders who held the plant and animal knowledge specific to the area.

The book, which took over 15 years to write and publish, was delivered to elders and the community at the beginning of February 2012. It is used at the local school and in workshops run by members of the community.

2011 Jarjums Yarning, North Stradbroke Kids’ Literacy Projects, QLD, 2011

On Tuesday 25 October 2011, the Quandamooka people of North Stradbroke Island celebrated the launch of two books written and illustrated by the jarjums (children) at Dunwich State School. The publication of the two books, What Is A Disaster I Hear You Say and Alphabet Antics, was funded by our Foundation. 

What Is A Disaster I Hear You Say was developed by Volunteering Queensland's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Natural Disaster Resilience Project in partnership with the Jarjum Yarning Project. The books arose from an initiative that aimed to get the whole community engaged in literacy and to ensure the presence of Indigenous books in the school, playgroups, the learning centre Yulu-Burri-Ba and children’s homes.

ILF Founder Suzy Wilson launched the books along with the Dunwich State School staff and students. Guests included the State Member for Cleveland Dr Mark Robinson, Rotary Governor Debbie James and Rotary representatives, as well as representatives from the State Library, local emergency services, non-profit organisations and community, and elders.

Jennie Schoof, Aboriginal Community Resilience Project Coordinator, said that the students worked hard to develop the stories. "It felt amazing to watch their beautiful smiles and such pride in the step. What a boost to celebrating literacy for the island. All of the community were so excited about the work that the students did."

The  books were published by Kids' Own Publishing.


Translations, Borroloola, NT, 2011

The Ted Prior title Grug Learns to Read has been translated into the language of the Garrawa people in the Northern Territory's Gulf of Carpentaria.

With the very kind permission of Ted Prior, Simon and Schuster published Grug Learns to Read in Karrawa. The book was sent to Borroloola, NT, where it is used in language and culture groups to help children develop greater knowledge of the Karrawa language. 

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation also provided English language translations of this book in the form of robust transparent stickers that are placed on the pages beside the Karrawa language in the book. As they read, the children can see both languages and thus have the opportunity to learn both. There are four language groups at Borroloola including Yanyula, Mara, Gudanji and the Garrawa peoples.

GurrindinDalmi Community Based Play, Katherine, NT,  2010–2011

This project brought together the Katherine Regional Arts and Katherine Indigenous community members to produce installation art and a play that records a significant local Dreaming story about GurrindinDalmi Rainbow Serpent who lives in caves under the Katherine township. 

The project aimed to build strategies to embed Indigenous knowledge across the broader community. Writing the script and play provided the opportunity for young Indigenous people to learn some of their own language, as well as to develop their skills in Standard Australian English. This was a combined community project with financial support and other contributions from several sources.

Leonie Norrington Project, Maningrida, NT, 2010 

This project involved working with community members to develop a manuscript for a children’s book. An illustrator visited the community to run illustration workshops, the products of which were then used to illustrate the book. The project involved children working with parents and grandparents to produce a book written in Standard Australian English. 

The children’s sense of ownership and responsibility for their book encouraged them to read it, thereby enhancing their literacy skills. When the book was complete, a publisher was approached. Leonie Norrington is an ILF Ambassador and the author of children’s books Barrambi Kids series, You and Me: Our Place and The Devil You Know. She has conducted workshops with several Arnhem communities to produce these books.

Junjuwa Women’s House, Kimberleys, WA, 2010

The Junjuwa Women’s House is a community-driven project which began when a group of Bunaba women from the Fitzroy Valley region of WA decided to establish a program where they could meet on a regular basis. 

They wanted to develop supportive friendships, to work on their skills in sewing, painting fabric and making saleable items, and to take classes in small business management to improve their financial literacy. They also wanted to learn sign language in order to support deaf community members. 

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation supported the Junjuwa Women’s House financially as well as by providing some art materials. The women hope eventually to develop a ‘cottage’ industry to ensure the sustainability and autonomy of their group.

Tablelands Ringers' Stories, 2010–2011

This project aimed to record the stories of ringers and other Indigenous station workers from around the Barkly Tablelands in the 1960s and 1970s, and to include young people in the process and technologies of recording. 

The stories were recorded in word, verbal and pictorial forms to encourage interacting with SAE and AEL. The older members of the community feared that the younger ones were in danger of forgetting the significant contributions made to the development of the Australian cattle industry and their history. These stories will be added to the recorded histories of the Barkly Tablelands.