Ten kids, five communities and four language groups came together with Australian authors and illustrators for the three day ILF Spinifex Writers Camp last week. Located in Tjuntjuntjara, the remotest community in the Great Western Desert, the ILF team travelled over 3000 kilometres across Australia with Ann James, Judy Watson and Gregg Dreise to nurture and develop the kids’ love of writing and illustrating.
“Whilst helping students from remote communities to write and illustrate their own stories, I was reminded of the importance of finding ownership in reading” said Gregg Dreise. “Non-indigenous students are engaged in the joys of reading, because a lot of stories and characters in books allow them to think of themselves as the characters within the stories. Sadly, there are limited resources and access for indigenous students to 'open the door' and let their imagination run with the stories and characters. A lot of characters and plots open a totally different 'door'. One that can be too hard to imagine and understand.”
It was Gregg Dreise and Judy Watson’s first trip with the ILF to Spinifex Country. Gregg, a Kamilaroi Yuwalayaay man, brought along his didgeridoo and didgeridoon’t (a modified didgeridoo) adding vitality and laughter to the workshops with traditional songs, dances, games and oral stories he shared with the students. Judy shared her expertise in illustrating and design, creating a host of activities students could explore through different art mediums. Ann James who has a strong relationship with Tjuntjuntjara students and experience over the years, led the workshops, and did what she does best…allowed the students to tell their stories through art.
Leading the project was ILF Program Manager, Tina Raye who says it is about “allowing the country to be the inspiration for the writing...And bringing groups of interested and talented young storytellers and artists to create stories with the guidance and support of authors and illustrators.”
Most of the kids didn’t know each other at the start of the camp, but by the end of the week, the bonds were strong amongst them as well as with Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School. “Meaningful relationships don’t occur overnight or after one single visit.” Tina says. “It’s important for the communities to know that we are there and, if invited, that we will be coming back. Going back every year reinforces the relationship and ensures more kids in the region have the opportunity to participate in such a unique camp.”
This was the third year the ILF travelled out to Tjuntjuntjara, which could not have been made possible without the support of a number of partners including AngloGold Ashanti. We acknowledge the support of all our recurring donors including businesses, schools, communities, booksellers, publishers and individuals.
“The work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation not only allows students to get their hands on books that are engaging for them, but also allows young minds from remote Australia to share in the ownership of books is a massive leap towards 'closing the gap'.” Said Gregg. “So I implore publishers and authors to consider creating books with colourful stories. I urge publishers and illustrators to consider illustrations with colourful characters. I encourage the average Australian to support the work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and donate any little or large amount to help 'open doors' for more Australians to access the wonder of opening the pages of a great book.”
Please consider sending us a tax-deductible donation here to support further programs like this.
The book, The Goanna Was Hungry that was written by the kids at the 2015 ILF Spinifex Writing Camp, will be launched on Indigenous Literacy Day at Sydney Opera House. Pre-order your copy here now.