Patron and Ambassadors

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is proud to have the support of our Patron and Ambassadors.

Our team of dedicated volunteer ambassadors participate in events and media interviews throughout the year and on Indigenous Literacy Day to raise support and awareness for ILF.

Where the opportunity arises, our ambassadors also travel to remote Indigenous communities to give workshops and participate in activities organised by ILF.

PATRON: The Honourable Quentin Bryce AD CVO

Dame Quentin Alice Louise Bryce AD, CVO was the 25th Governor-General of Australia, September 2008 - March 2014. She was the first woman to take up the office, and is noted as a pioneer in contemporary Australian society, with more than 40 years of experience in reform, community building and leadership. She was previously the Governor of Queensland from 2003  to 2008. 

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law from The University of Queensland, Quentin Bryce has had a rich and distinguished career as an academic, lawyer, community and human rights advisor, senior public officer and university college principal.

Ms Bryce’s former roles – some, among firsts for women in this country – include:

  • Lecturer and Tutor in Law, The University of Queensland, 1968-1983
  • Convenor, National Women’s Advisory Council, 1982-1984
  • Inaugural Director, Queensland Women’s Information Service, Office of the Status of Women, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 1984-1987
  • Director, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Queensland, 1987-1988
  • Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1988-1993
  • Founding Chair and CEO, National Childcare Accreditation Council, 1993-1996
  • Principal and CEO, The Women's College, University of Sydney, 1997-2003
  • Governor of Queensland, 2003-2008

Quentin Bryce’s contribution to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children, and the welfare of the family was recognised in her appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2003. Also in 2003, she was invested as a Dame of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. On 25 March 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Ms Bryce had become a Dame in the Order of Australia.

Richard Miller Flanagan: Ambassador

Considered to be the finest Australian novelist of his generation, Richard Flanagan is an award-winning novelist whose books have been published in 26 countries.

Richard has written six novels, including The Narrow Road to the Deep North which won the 2014 Man Booker Prize, the 2014 Indie Book of the Year award and co-won the Prime Minister's Literary Fiction Award.

He has written five non-fiction books, co-wrote the film Australia, and directed a feature film based on his second novel The Sound of One Hand Clapping. His journalism has appeared in publications including the New YorkerLe MondeSuddeutsche Zeitung and La Repubblica.

Richard donated his prize-winnings from the Prime Minister's Literary Fiction award to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

"My mortgage will go on as mortgages do, but if one of those books helps a few children to advance beyond the most basic literacy to one that is liberating, then I will consider the money better spent," he said on winning. "And if just one of those children in turn becomes a writer, if just one brings to Australia and to the world an idea of the universe that arises out of that glorious lineage of sixty thousand years of Australian civilisation, then I will think this prize has rewarded not just me, but us all. And for that we will all owe this prize an immense debt of gratitude."

Ursula Yovich: Ambassador

Acknowledged as one of Australia’s foremost indigenous performance artists, Ursula Yovich is a Helpmann award-winning actor and singer, and indigenous advocate. A selection of Ursula’s recent screen work for television includes The Gods of Wheat Street, both series of the ground-breaking Redfern NowDevil’s Dust and Rake. She has also appeared in the feature films Australia and Jindabyne

An accomplished stage actor, Ursula is much in demand by leading mainstage and independent theatre companies in Australia. Standout performances include Mother Courage (QTC), The Secret River, Bloodland (STC), Capricornia, The Sapphires (Belvoir) Jerry Springer: The Opera (SOH), The Magic Hour (Deckchair Theatre). Her distinctive singing voice has enchanted audiences worldwide, including New York’s Carnegie and London’s Queen Elizabeth Halls and our own Sydney Opera House. 

Deborah Cheetham, AO: Ambassador 

"There are many ways of knowing and learning. I am keen to help encourage Indigenous children to find their voice through the power of literacy whilst strengthening an understanding about Indigenous ways of knowledge transfer."

Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, Soprano, composer and educator has performaned internationally in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and throughout Australia.

With a Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, Deborah created Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer and in 2010, she brought together Australia’s first classically trained Indigenous ensemble to present its world premiere. That year, she was a finalist for Australian of the Year in Victoria. The success of Pecan Summer led to the creation of Short Black Opera Company, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous opera singers.

After serving as Head of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development from 2011 to 2014, Deborah was appointed as Associate Dean of Indigenous Development at the Faculty of the VCA and MCM, University of Melbourne.

In 2014, Deborah was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for "distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation Inin performance". In March 2015, Deborah was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

Justine Clarke: Ambassador

Justine Clarke has become one of Australia’s most well-known faces, as a highly-regarded, award-winning actress and of course as a versatile children’s entertainer. 

A long-standing presenter on ABC TV’s Play School and a veteran of numerous live performances, Justine has three top-selling, ARIA nominated CDs and in 2013 Justine won the ARIA Award for Best Children’s Album for her fourth CD, A Little Day Out.

Amongst several successful ventures in TV, film and live projects, Justine entered into book publishing with her best-selling Children’s picture book The Gobbledygook Is Eating A Book and recently released a CD-book (through Scholastic) in 2015 entitled The Ugly Duckling

William Barton: Ambassador

William Barton, a descendant of the Kalkadunga tribe of Far North-Western Queensland, is an internationally renowned performer and composer, who has been playing didgeridoo for over 20 years.

He first learnt the instrument in Mount Isa, and over the years has worked with traditional dance groups, fusion rock-jazz bands, orchestras, string quarters and more. William has toured internationally since he was 15, and in 2012, won an ARIA award for best classical album, Kalkadungu. 

"My passion is to create a journey for people through music and present to them a diversity in musical styles with the didgeridoo and engage with audiences about the uniqueness of Australia. It has been a specific passion of mine to work closely with classical music and composers to develop and sustain music for the didgeridoo in this environment".

Debra Dank: Cultural Ambassador

Debra Dank is a Gudanji woman, from the Barkly Tablelands, NT. She has been an integral part of ILF, first working with the Indigenous Literacy Project when it was in partnership with the Fred Hollows Foundation and then as Program Manager from 2011 to 2012.

Debra has been involved in education for more than 20 years and is now Student Academic Course Mentor at Charles Darwin University. Debra's focus has always been on literacy and Indigenous education; working in school based roles providing academic support to Indigenous students.


Lifetime ambassadors

Andy Griffiths

"Imagine a world in which everybody has clean air, fresh water, healthy food, someone to love and someone who loves them, a roof over their head, and, most important of all, a good book to read and the ability to read it ... sure, you might say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one ..."

Andy Griffiths is one of Australia's funniest and most successful writers. His books have sold over 5 million copies worldwide, have featured on the New York Times bestseller lists, and have won over 50 Australian children's choice awards. 

Andy's books include the Just! series, the Bum trilogy and he is the editor of a collection of writing by children from remote Indigenous communities called, The Naked Boy and the Crocodile.

Kate Grenville

"Most of us take reading (and writing) so much for granted that it's almost impossible to imagine life without that form of communication. Literacy opens so many doors that otherwise stay closed: doors into education and jobs, but also into the minds and imaginations and hearts of other humans all over the planet. Verbal literacy isn't the only door, by any means - but having access to it is a choice that no one should miss out on."

Kate Grenville was born in Sydney. Her novels include Lilian's Story, The Idea of Perfection, The Secret River, The Lieutenant and most recently Sarah Thornhill. Several of these books attempt to explore some of the history that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians share.

Dr Anita Heiss

"Literacy is essential to Aboriginal people's self-determination. If we cannot read we cannot make the decisions that inevitably impact on our lives. Self-determination requires each of us to have the literacy to have the power to make our own decisions and control our own futures. Only when we are self-determined as individuals will we be self-determined as a nation of peoples."

Dr Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation, and is an author, poet, satirist and social commentator. Anita's published works include Manhattan Dreaming, the historical novel Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937, kids novel Yirra and Her Deadly Dog, Demon, poetry collection I'm Not Racist, But and non-fiction text Dhuuluu-Yala (To Talk Straight)

In 2011 Paris Dreaming won the Deadly Award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Literature, repeating Dr. Heiss's previous successes in 2007 and 2008. Dr Heiss is an Adjunct Professor with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS.

Alison Lester

Over her 21 year career she has produced such classics as the Clive Eats Alligators series, Magic BeachImagine and My Farm, and recently she has also started writing novels, including The Quicksand Pony and the Bonnie and Sam series with Roland Harvey. 

Her picture book, Are We There Yet?, won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2005 (and was chosen as the focus book for the National Year of Reading 2012), and Running with the Horses was an Honour Book in the 2010 CBCA Book of the Year Awards and 2010 Prime Minister's Literary Awards. 

Her most recent titles include, Sophie Scott Goes SouthNoni the Pony and Once Small Island (created in collaboration with Coral Tulloch). One Small Island has recently won both the Wilderness Society's 2012 Environment Award for Children's Literature and the 2012 CBCA's (Children's Book Council of Australia's) Eve Pownall Book of the Year Award.

Her picture books mix imaginary worlds with everyday life, encouraging children to believe in themselves and celebrate the differences that make them special. Alison is involved in many community art projects and spends part of every year travelling to remote Indigenous communities, using her books to help children and adults write and draw about their own lives.

In 2012 and 2013 Alison, along with Boori Pryor, was appointed Australia's first Children's Laureate, a position they will share for two years. She is also an ambassador for the 2012 National Year of Reading.

David Malouf

"There was a time, not so long ago, when people who could not read or write learned all they needed to know of the world by show and tell; by looking hard, asking questions of their elders, and then listening hard to the answers. But that time is past. Today we learn how the world works, and how we work in it, through reading as well as through watching and listening. A lot of the information we need is in books, or in newspapers or magazines, or on the Internet. Even to send an SMS on a mobile phone we need to be able to read. Reading brings the world to us. But reading can also open up a new world of people and events we have never imagined but which we can enter and become part of. This kind of reading takes us out of ourselves into other times and places, into other skins. Reading is a form of magic. It gives us access to a world that has no limits and where everyone is welcome and can be at home".

David Malouf is an acclaimed poet and novelist. David's books include Johnno, Remembering Babylon, which won the first International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Every Move You Make which won both The Age Book of the Year Award for Fiction and the Queensland Premier's Literary Short Story Collection Award.

Josh Pyke

"Having the ability to choose is a powerful thing, and to me, the work ILF do in raising literacy levels in Indigenous communities, is about introducing choice to people. Kids and adults who can read, can choose to pursue further education, pursue better job opportunities, stay more up to date with the world around them, or simply enjoy the brilliant escape that reading can offer at the end of a stressful day. Words, books and the language of music have been incredibly important to me, and I love that ILF might bring those gifts and those choices to others."

Josh Pyke is an ARIA award-winning singer and songwriter. In 2009 Josh launched his 'Buskin for Change' to mobilise support for The Indigenous Literacy Foundation. He won his fourth ARIA for 'Best Contemporary Album for his second full length album 'Chimney's Afire' in 2011.

Ambassadors 2006-2015


Geraldine Brooks     Adam James Sally Morgan

Katie Noonan   

Leonie Norrington

May O'Brien





Michael O'Loughlin     Felix Reibl    

Sam Watson




Tara June Winch  







Thérèse Rein, Patron 2008-2013

"Shared children's stories and rhymes are the foundation of culture. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation not only provides much needed resources to remote communities and promotes the joy of reading in the broader population ... it provides a new generation of Indigenous children with the passion and pride in their stories that I hope will flow to the general community in the form of beautifully written and illustrated books. This project is a real opportunity for all Australians to get involved in a simple, effective and meaningful community activity. I encourage you, your school, your bookclub or your organisation to be involved."