Patron and Ambassadors

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is proud to have the support of 17 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.



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 2011-2012.

Debra has been involved in education for more than 20 years and is now the Indigenous Education Teacher at Kormilda College, NT. Debra's focus has always been on literacy and Indigenous education; working in school based roles providing academic support to Indigenous students.

Geraldine Brooks: Ambassador

"When I was growing up, books were everything: the passport to a much wider world than the simple and limited suburban landscape of my childhood. It is wonderful that the Australian Book Industry has embraced the Indigenous Literacy Foundation so warmly. As more books are placed in avid young hands, who knows what journeys will begin."

Geraldine Brooks is author of the Pulitzer Prize winning and internationally bestselling novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders published in 2001, is also an international bestseller. Geraldine's latest book Caleb's Crossing was published in 2011.

Kate Grenville: Ambassador

"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 includ 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.

Andy Griffiths: Ambassador

"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.

Dr Anita Heiss: Ambassador

"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.

Adam James: Ambassador

"Growing up I was pretty lucky to be part of a family that encouraged reading. Two of the most important skills associated with being a singer/songwriter/entertainer are the ability to read and a command of the English language. Without these skills I could not write my songs. It is my belief that through reading children not only learn to read and write, they also learn to use their imagination. They can imagine their future and dream about the possibilities. Maybe I can be a doctor or a nurse or a singer or an author? Please give your support to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation so that the first children of this nation can dare to dream and achieve. Dreams do come true."

Adam James is a young Indigenous singer-songwriter who won Best New Talent in 2008 at the Deadly Awards and a solid nomination for the 2008 Australian Male Independent Country Music Rising Star Award.

Alison Lester: Ambassador

Over her twenty-one year career she has produced such classics as the Clive Eats Alligators series, Magic Beach, Imagine 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 South, Noni 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: Ambassador

"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.



Sally Morgan: Ambassador

"When I was young my family never had any money, so my Mum couldn't afford to buy us books. She did, however, haunt secondhand shops and whenever she came across anything she thought was interesting she would buy it and bring it home. This meant the books in our house were mainly volumes of fairy stories or books about the natural world. I learnt a lot about insects, snakes and dinosaurs. I love reading, it is a wonderful way to learn new things and to travel to other worlds where exciting things happens. It also helps you to think about the stories you would like to tell yourself."

Sally Morgan belongs to the Palkyu people, from the Pilbara in the north west of Western Australia. She is a writer and an artist, but is best known for her book My Place, which documents her family's journey back to their country and their people. Sally is employed in the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia.

Katie Noonan: Ambassador

"I am very honoured and excited to be involved with such a wonderful organisation. I am also feeling so lucky to have the privilege of visiting remote communities and reading books and playing music with the children - myself and my band 'the Captains' are really looking forward to it! I am also particularly excited about learning more about Indigenous language and having the children teach me that in return! This really is a wonderful organisation and I am honoured to be a small part of it."

Katie Noonan's technical mastery and pure voice make her one of Australia's most versatile and beloved vocalists. A mother, singer, producer, songwriter, pianist and business woman, this multi award winning and five time platinum selling songstress first received widespread praise as the angel-voiced songstress of indie-pop band george and she has since taken audiences on sublime excursions through jazz, pop and classical music.


Leonie Norrington: Ambassador

"As humans we understand ourselves, and our potential, through story; the stories we live (personal experience) and the stories we hear, read, and see around us during our lives. The only way Indigenous people can experience the most exciting part of reading, the part that most Australians take for granted, the joy of finding your culture, your experiences and your thoughts in the literature you read, is if the books they read have Indigenous heroes and are steeped in modern day Indigenous culture."

Leonie Norrington was born in Darwin, the third of nine children, and grew up at Barunga Aboriginal community, south of Katherine. Leonie's published books include Woman's Talk, Under the Mango Tree, The Barrumbi Kids, Croc Bait and You and Me: Our Place.


May O'Brien, BEM: Ambassador

May O'Brien was born in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia, and at the age of five, was taken to Mount Margaret Mission where she spent the next twelve years. She taught in Western Australian rural and metropolitan primary schools for twenty-five years. May served in a number of other positions before being appointed Superintendent of Aboriginal Education, a position she held until her early retirement in 1988.

Her total service with the Western Australian Ministry of Education was thirty-four years. May is currently National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy Ambassador for the Department of Education, Science and Training, and Patron of The Australian Principals Associations Professional Development Council's Dare to Lead: Taking it On Project.


Michael O'Loughlin: Ambassador

Michael O'Loughlin belongs to the Narrunga people and he says: I'm mainly Aboriginal, but with a strong element of Hebrew and just a dash of Irish.

When Michael O'Loughlin was drafted by the Sydney Swans at just 17 years of age, he was the no. 40 selection and the last player picked. Back then he could not have imagined the extraordinary future that awaited him: the numerous awards and accolades, the respect and admiration of fellow players, a huge number of personal supporters, and a record-breaking 303 games in the red and white.

By 2009, Michael had broken the Swans' games record. He had kicked more goals for the club than anyone except the legendary Bob Pratt. He played more finals for the Swans than any other, and became one of just three Indigenous players in the history of the sport to reach 300 games. Michael is now the a high performance AFL coach with The Australian Institute of Sport and also runs the GO Foundation with good friend and former teammate Adam Goodes.


Josh Pyke: Ambassador

"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 ILP 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 Chimneys Afire in 2011.


Felix Reibl: Ambassador

"Storytelling has always been an integral part of my life. I grew up in a family where music and books where considered among the greatest treasures, and have since dedicated my time to writing songs. I understand the need for books and reading not just in developing musical ideas but for understanding my world and ultimately being able to communicate with my audience. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is making a difference by providing access to books and programs for reading. It reaches some of the most disadvantaged and remote areas, where literacy - and the life spark that learning how to read generates - is most needed."

Felix Reibl is a founding member of the internationally renowned band 'The Cat Empire'. Felix has written songs for the band, composed music outside the band, and had a remarkable journey traveling with music. Felix released his first solo album, Into the Rain, in 2011.



Samuel Watson : Ambassador

"When I was a kid, I learnt of a man who couldn't read or write. He was sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit, yet the police forced him to sign a statement that incriminated him. He did several years in jail until the real culprit was found. How could he have been convicted, when he couldn't even write, let alone read his own apparent confession? When I see Indigenous writers in front of an audience and the punters are hanging off their every word, I think of that man and similar correlations of today's society and how literacy can save an individual's life. That's why I write, and that's why it's important for my children to be able to grasp the written word and to understand what reading and comprehension can do for them - no one should ever have to pay for the crime of being illiterate."

Samuel Wagan-Watson is an award-winning poet and professional raconteur. Samuel began his writing career in Grade 7, when a teacher entered one of short stories in a Queensland-schools competition. The judges remarked that it was the worst writing they'd ever encountered!

Samuel's 4th collection of poetry, Smoke Encrypted Whispers won the 2005 NSW Premier's Award for the Book of the Year and the national Kenneth Slessor poetry prize. He has performed his poetry throughout the world and was recently commissioned by the Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency to write haiku for the pleasure of the astronauts on the International Space Platform. He was also the poet-in-residence on the ABC's Sunday Arts show before his current position as the principle writer for Brisbane's 98.9FM


Tara June Winch: Ambassador

"The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has helped give voice to a world, given a language an opportunity to reach out to other readers. It has helped make a path to the merging of two worlds, two languages, two people. ILF is not only an act of charity; it is an act of reconciliation. It is a healing path, which you all have paved."

If you're going to be a writer you have to come from some place and if you're going to be a writer you have to be a reader first. What these literacy programs create are readers first. In the hope, I hope, of writers next. And these writers will come from some place. Stories from an Aboriginal place, a place that needs more and more voice and more and more ears."

Tara June Winch is an Indigenous Australian writer. Her first novel Swallow the Air won the David Unaipon Award for Inidigenous Writers, the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Indigenous Literature, the NSW Premiers Literary Award for New Writing and the Dobbie Award for Womens first writing. Tara sits of the Australia Council Board for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts, works as a freelance writer and lives with her darling daughter, Lila on the beach.


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."