‘Many homes here simply don’t have books or toys, or the resources to buy them,’ explains Lillian Lee, the Team Leader at Centacare in Mt Isa.
Mt Isa, in Queensland’s Gulf Country, has a large Indigenous population, with some Aboriginal families in the region living in impoverished circumstances. Overcrowding of homes can be common, often with six to seven families under the one roof. Some people have no built home to call their own, and live in the riverbed.
Centacare, through its programs, works closely with families in Mt Isa itself, but also as far afield as Camooweal, a two-hour drive away, and Cloncurry, nearly one and a half hours on the road from the office. Once a month Lillian sets out on the 12-hour round trip to Normanton to lend practical, in-home support.
Lillian encourages parents to spend one-on-one time with their young children, sitting down and playing games. Home-made playdough and ‘slime’ are very popular – recipes for these are handed out! – as are simple board games. Lillian also reads books from the ILF Book Supply packs to the kids.
‘They love it,’ says Lillian.
The parents, mostly mothers, also get involved in the stories, which helps build their own confidence in reading as well as developing their parenting skills.
Centacare received its first delivery of books from ILF in 2015, having heard about the Book Supply packs through word of mouth. Because Centacare works with 0 to 18 year olds, as well as adults, Lillian ordered one of each pack that was available.
‘I’m really grateful,’ she says. ‘And I love the number of Indigenous books. They are really relevant to the kids and that makes a real difference.’
The community workers and counsellors at Centacare hand-pick books from the boxes received from ILF to distribute directly to the families they are working with. Some of the books go into the ‘welcome packs’ Centacare makes up when a family is new to the program.
‘Everyone loves the Hairy Maclary books [by Lynley Dodd], and especially the soft animal toy that comes with them. They all want that for their kids!’
Centacare has just received its 2016 book packs and already the books are being given out to families. Later in the year, some of the books will be distributed during Centacare activities held in Mt Isa.
‘ILF is doing a wonderful job,’ Lillians says. ‘I think it’s just fabulous, it’s marvellous what they do.’
NOTE: Image is from another Book Supply Program on the Tiwi Islands (no images available from Centacare North Queensland).