Publishing books written by Community

The Los Pintos Declaration, the roadmap for UNESCO’s Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, emphasises Indigenous peoples’ rights to freedom of expression, to an education in their mother tongue, and to participate in public life using their languages, as prerequisites for survival of Indigenous languages.

The ILF works to meet the wishes of remote Communities across Australia, to assist with the publishing of books created by Community - many in First Languages - as well as to fund the development of digital, audio, or other learning resources and workshops.

It is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can see themselves, their culture and languages reflected in the books they read. Having books that share local stories in First Languages, preserves and maintains Indigenous languages and culture, as well as builds pride, identity and strengthens a sense of belonging, confidence and wellbeing. These books are highly desired because they often share a local story that a Community is familiar with and in a language they speak at home. 

How Community Publishing works

Potential publishing projects go through a proposal process which must meet our vision and strategy. Each is different. Some involve working with the Community, others involve translators, linguists, authors, illustrators, editors and artists.

We listen to the needs and wants of each Community and collaborate throughout the entire process to ensure Community leadership and authenticity. Once a book is published, if requested, we assist with an official launch and copies of the books are gifted to the Community and often included in the Book Supply program.

There is a real buzz and palpable sense of achievement when children and Community members publish a book through our Community Publishing Projects program. The young authors become role models for others.

Commercial titles -  books that Communities wish to share with other Communities, as well as the Australian public - provide a wonderful glimpse into the way of life in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. These are available for sale from the ILF Shop

Publishing Criteria

Potential projects may be accepted into the ILF’s Community Publishing Program (CPP) if they meet the following criteria:

  • Represents a remote, very remote, or isolated community

  • Where possible, includes a language element (this may mean the book is solely in language, include a complete translation, or an English text with particular words in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language)

  • That appropriate permissions for language use have been or can be obtained from the traditional knowledge holders/owners/Elders

  • If the story is a traditional story, that the appropriate permissions have been or can be obtained from the traditional knowledge holders/owners/Elders

  • Are primarily for a children’s or youth audience (i.e. picture storybooks, board books, etc.)

  • Are positive representations of Indigenous peoples, cultures, Communities, languages and lives

  • Can be shown to be of benefit to the larger Community the book represents 

  • That the book project is led by Community members at all times and at all levels

  • Projects taken on by the ILF are primarily, but not always, organised by schools, FaFTs, community organisations or authors working with community organisations.

Please note that meeting these criteria does not automatically guarantee acceptance into the Community Publishing Program. For more information or to request an application form, please email us at

Applications will be considered three times a year, at the end of March, July and November. We will contact you whether your application is successful or not.

“I would like to thank the ILF for helping us to make the book in Walmajarri because it’s very important to us and for our kids to have English and Walmajarri.”

- Jessie Moora, Walmajarri Elder and Teacher, Yakanarra School

First Language

Community members decide which language to write their books in. To date, 66 books have been written in a First Language (and English), and another 23 books include keywords in First Languages.

“These books are so important for the future of the children and for the elders of the community. To have their language recognised and respected is something that their culture can look on and be so proud of. We’re proud of the kids, they have worked so hard on their books and are proud of them!”

- Helen Unwin, Principal, Yakanarra School


Some of these projects are funded by the ILF, some receive grants or sponsorship, or are published in partnerships with other organisations.

Pamela Lofts Bequest

Pamela Lofts (1949-2012) was a nationally renowned artist and a much-loved children’s book illustrator. She has left behind an enormous legacy and a substantial bequest to our Foundation, which allowed us to launch The Pamela Lofts Bequest for Literacy and Learning Project in 2014.

This project provides a mentorship program for Indigenous children in remote communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Create Initiative

The ILF Create Initiative partners young Indigenous women at Tiwi College with publishers and mentors to create (produce stories), cultivate (build knowledge) and motivate (grow self-esteem). 

Here are the seven books that have come out of the Create Initiative:

Ngiya Yintanga Japarrika is the third book of the Japarrika trilogy, written with Shelley Ware and David Lawrence and published by Penguin Random House in 2020.

Japarrika Rises, the sequel to 2018’s enormously successful Japarrika, written with Shelley Ware and David Lawrence and will be published by Penguin Random House in 2019. Stay tuned for updates!

Japarrika written with David Lawrence and Shelley Ware, published by Penguin Random House in 2017 and launched in 2018.

Shallow in the Deep End written with Jared Thomas in 2016 and published by Scholastic Australia in 2017.

Nginingawila Ngirramini: Our Story written with Anita Heiss and published by Hachette Australia in 2015.

Tiwi Girl written with Alison Lester and published by Harper Collins in 2014.


Bangs 2 Jurrukuk written with John Danalis in 2013 and supported by Allen & Unwin.

Current Community Publishing Projects for Commercial Sale

Hello, Hello

Hello, Hello was written and illustrated by students from Laverton, Menzies and Tjuntjuntjara remote community schools at the third Spinifex Camp, sponsored by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. The students were joined by ILF ambassador and award-winning illustrator Ann James and singer/songwriter Chris Aitken, and together they have produced a book that will intrigue, surprise and delight readers of all ages. Purchase your copy here.

I Saw We Saw

Yolngu students from Nhulunbuy Primary School wrote and illustrated this story with Ann James and Ann Haddon over a series of workshops sponsored by our Foundation. The students also worked with elders in their community to write their story in Dhangu, one of the Yolngu Matha languages. Purchase your copy.

Graphic Novel Project 

Throughout 2018 and 2019, ILF funded a series of workshops for the students with notable mentors; Brenton McKenna, author of the ‘Ubby’ series of graphic novels; Wolfgang Bylsma, editor-in-chief of graphic novel publisher Gestalt Publishing; and Justin Randall, award-winning graphic novelist, illustrator and colourist. 

The three graphic novels, Mixed FeelingsExo Dimensions, and Storm Warning address topics such as climate change, intergenerational trauma and healing, and two-way cultural learning against the backdrop of life in Central Australia. 

The graphic novels have been written by four young people: Declan Miller (20) Seraphina Newberry (17), Alyssa Mason (17) and Lauren Boyle (17) from Mparntwe (Alice Springs).

Wamparla Apira

Wamparla Apira (Possums and Tall Trees) is told in Arabana and English by Elder Thanthi Syd Strangways and is not only a fascinating story which is beautifully illustrated by Kathy Arbon, but is also an important addition to the Arabana Wangka or language resources for the Arabana people of northern South Australia. Launched in 2018 at the South Australian Museum. Order your copy here.

Can You Dance? 

Written by one of Australia's best loved authors, Sally Morgan, and illustrated by Kathy Arbon, this board book will get toddlers and preschoolers up off their feet following the actions of the animals featured in the book. Published by the ILF in 2018. Order your copy now.

Damo Makes His Mark - Written by students from Katherine High School with David Lawrence

This project is just the first of three books! Featuring amazing, action-packed football scenes, this story was written by the Katherine 7 and was made possible by the Hawthorn Football Club, Hachette Publishing and the Clontarf Academy. Read more here.

Teeny Weeny Yikiyikini - Written by students from Milikapiti School with Gregg Dreise 

We're excited to share this project with our followers in 2019. This is the second book from Milikapiti School on Melville Island, who authored 2015's popular title No Way Yirrikipayi. We were thrilled to be joined by our ambassador Gregg Dreise and local elder Nina Black. Published by the ILF. Stay tuned for updates and read more about our field trip here.

Deadly Sisters of Worawa - Written by students from Worawa Aboriginal College with Anita Heiss and Shelley Ware

Deadly Sisters of Worawa is about the students' families, sacred places and things they've achieved that make them proud. They've also written some powerful and moving poetry, and created some amazing artwork, all of which combined reveals how deadly these Worawa sisters are. Published by the ILF in partnership with the Epic Good Foundation and launched on Indigenous Literacy Day in 2018. Order your copy now.

Japarrika Rises - Written by students from Tiwi College's Senior Young Women’s Class as part of our 2018 Create Initiative with David Lawrence and Shelley Ware

Japarrika Rises is the sequel to 2019's enormously successful Create Initiative title Japarrika; a story about a young Tiwi woman who dreams about playing in the AFLW. This new, beautifully illustrated book, is full of excitement and humour, and is truly representative of the students’ lives, loves and culture. Published by Penguin Random House. Read more here.

For further information on Community Publishing Projects, please contact us.

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