Alison Lester visits the Tiwi Islands

Alison Lester visits the Tiwi Islands

At the start of May, ILF ambassador and inaugural Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester visited the Tiwi Islands to work with the children and develop the stories written last year during the annual ambassador field trip. This account is provided by Alison's manager John Cooper who travelled out and supported her and the students during the trip. 

Day 1 – Milikapiti School

We spent Tuesday working at Milikapiti School with the older primary kids and a few budding artists from the younger classes. We read through No Way Yirrikipayi, which had been written and illustrated last year by the students, discussing all the different animals that were in the story.

The students liked the story but thought it needed some new artwork. They drew lots of versions of the animals in the book and stunning backgrounds. It was time to get messy and creative! With Alison’s guidance the students tried lots of different things, painting on watercolour paper, tissue paper and paper towel, which gave a really lively texture. They used pencils, wax crayons, pen and ink. The results were amazing, beautiful colours and compositions.

The book is going to look fabulous.

All the students involved did a wonderful job. It was a busy day at the school, with lots of visitors and things happening! Thanks to Suzanne, the teachers, education workers and students for having us.


Day 2- Tiwi College

It was great to see the girls at Tiwi College again, along with the staff and especially Tic Tac, who had been down to Sydney last year to work on the book Tiwi Girl.

We read Tiwi Girl and did a brainstorming session of issues facing the students to see if all the important issues had been covered. We talked about being picked up to go to school, how hard it was to leave home for the week. The girls considered whether Mia and her brother had been out hunting and collecting bush tucker, and whether Mia had been bitten by something and had to visit the clinic, to have a reason to go back to the community

We also talked about issues facing the people on Tiwi, that people living in other parts of Australia might not realise. On Tiwi you can only shop every two weeks, it's very expensive, there are huge distances to travel, you depend on generators to keep the power going, and make sure there is enough diesel.

Then it was time to cover the pictures. The original illustrations were great but probably a little too simple for the story, so the students decided to use photographs to illustrate the story, stripped back to almost black images of buildings, people and landscape with watercolour backgrounds to colour them.

After lunch the girls each took one of the issues discussed in the morning session and wrote more text expanding on issues and adding more detail.

Day 3 – Tiwi College

There were a few other activities on today so we got straight into it. In the morning we refined the story and then decided which photos needed to be taken. The girls headed out on a CSIRO excursion and to the girls’ football match that afternoon and took some fantastic photos. With the help of the app Pencil Sketch we played around with the pics to get them just right and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring different painting techniques



Day 4- Tiwi College

The final day was a frenzy of activity. The girls powered through their work, creating beautiful backgrounds and transposing photos over them. The results were striking. The images really captured the feel of the story and were perfect for the age-group of the reader. The girls then added some fine Tiwi designs which they had done on tissue paper, connecting each illustration with the Tiwi theme.

The Tiwi girls’ senior class did a fabulous job all week and will finish the story in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone at the College for making our visit a memorable one and we can’t wait to see the book when it’s printed.


  • Posted 19 May, 2015

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