Tiwi Girls write new book
Photographer: Anna Zhu

Nine young women travelled from their small school on the Tiwi Islands to experience writing, illustrating, and the opportunities these skills can lead to. After their success in 2013 writing Bangs 2 Jurrukuk, the senior girl’s class from Tiwi College returned to Sydney to work on a new story earlier this month.  For four of the nine students, this was their second year to participate.

This year’s author mentor was none other than Alison Lester, ILF Ambassador and former Australian Children's Laureate. Alison guided the young women through brainstorming sessions, story mapping, writing, and then illustrating.

Following his recent participation on the ILF Annual Ambassador Trip to the Tiwi Islands, HarperCollins CEO James Kellow was very supportive of the idea and took on the role of this year’s host publisher. From the beautiful rooftop boardroom of Allen & Unwin in 2013 to the 13th floor of HarperCollins overlooking Hyde Park, the aspiring students were certainly playing the part of successful authors and illustrators.

Tiwi Girl, the students' new book, was developed over two days. The story is about a young Tiwi girl named Mia, 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.

Here is a glimpse of what’s to come…


Mia lives at Punarli beach with her grandma Joy, cousin Gloria, baby niece Glorianna and twin bother Jake. Grandma Joy has an upstairs house near a beach with white sand, lovely green mangroves and beautiful see-through water. There are green triangular shaped leaves everywhere you look and flowers as soft as jellybeans.


The nine authors and illustrators enjoyed collaborating on a story they all wanted to tell and share. The watercolour and ink press illustrations portray the Tiwi environment and bring the story to life. Although still in draft form, the book was printed for the students at the end of their trip to take back home with them. They will spend time continuing to work on their story before it is officially published.

Dianne “Tictac” Moore, one of the teachers of the group, understands the importance of such an opportunity.



    “Hopefully this inspires the young girls to come to school everyday and they can make their own book and come down to Sydney one day too,”

    Dianne Moore, Teacher

    “For me, you can’t bottle confidence enough and transferability. If the girls can work with a series of different people in Sydney, then going back to Darwin to do work experience will be a walk in the park”,

    Ian Smith, Principal, Tiwi College

Like last year, this year’s trip wasn’t all about story writing. The girls also had the chance to experience Sydney. They toured Sydney University and the Law Courts, watched theatre performances including The Lion King, visited Taronga Zoo, and even performed at the Opera House in front of over 300 school children and other guests.

Many thanks go out to all the people and organisations that helped make this fantastic trip come together including Alison Lester, HarperCollins, Guy Reynolds Foundation, Taronga Zoo, Sydney University, Young Lawyers Association, Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College, Skinny Fish Records, ILF Board Members and Tiwi College School.