Publishing books written by community

This program produces and publishes books written Indigenous people, for Indigenous people. These books are important because they represent Indigenous culture, community life and language. 

We have published 90 books that reflect 18 Indigenous languages, written by children, families and community elders in remote communities across Australia. In 2020, we have another 14 books to publish in multiple languages including our first collection from the Torres Strait Islands. 

How the projects work

All potential publishing projects go through a proposal process which must meet our vision and strategy and be approved by our Board. Each is different. Some involve working with the community, others involve translators, linguists, authors, illustrators, editors and artists. Once a book is published, we arrange 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 sense of achievement around the issue of literacy when children and the communities are involved. The young authors become role models for others. The books show their stories and experiences and are just as important as any other published story. And other communities, as well as the Australian public, get a glimpse into the lives of others in remote communities. It is empowering.

“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 help decide which language to use for the books. So far, 52 of our books are written in an Indigenous language (and English), and another 22 books include keywords in first language.

“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 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 six books that have come out of the Create Initiative:

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 Literacy Projects

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

Yolŋu 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 Dhaŋu, one of the Yolŋu Matha languages. Purchase your copy.

Graphic Novel project (currently untitled)

This project is the result of students from Centralian Middle and Secondary College joining mentors Brenton McKenna and Wolfgang Bylsma in a series of workshops to produce a short graphic novel. Featuring time-travelling zombies, this action-packed story is one not to be missed! Watch this space as we look forward to announcing its launch later in the year. We're accepting pre-orders now - get in touch with us to secure your copy!

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. A limited number of copies are available for purchase - 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 last year’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.

Kutju, Kutjara, Mankurpa (123) and Nyaa Nyuntu Nyanganyi? (What do you see? What can you see?) - Written by mothers and children from Amata playgroup with Alison Lester

We're excited to share these board books with our followers in 2019. Written in Pitjantjatjarra by mothers and children from Amata playgroup, we were thrilled to be joined by renowned children's illustrator and ambassador Alison Lester and local artist Barbara Moore. Read more about our field trip here and stay tuned for updates!

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