Publishing books written by community

This program publishes books written by people in remote communities, some reflecting traditional legends and stories.

Many of the 66 project books published so far are written by children, while others are parenting or educational books written in consultation with community elders. The majority of our publications reflect up to 15 Indigenous languages. 

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, 35 of our books are written in an Indigenous language (and English), and another 16 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). 

Below is a list of the four books that have come out of the Create Initiative.

Shallow in the Deep End (2016) written with Jared Thomas and to be published by Scholastic Australia in 2017

Nginingawila Ngirramini: Our Story (2015) written with Anita Heiss and published by Hachette Australia

Tiwi Girl (2014) written with Alison Lester and published by Harper Collins

Bangs 2 Jurrukuk (2013) written with John Danalis and supported by Allen & Unwin


Current Community Literacy Projects

I Open The Door - Students from Tjuntjuntjara, Menzies, Mt Margaret and Laverton at the 2016 Spinifex Writing Camp with Gregg Dreise, Ann James and Judy Watson

Nine imaginative and adventurous interconnected stories, all of which begin and end with opening a door. Launched on Indigenous Literacy Day 2017, in Perth. Pre-order your copy now.

Two Ways Strong - Students at Concordia Lutheran College from remote communities across Queensland, with Claire Scobie and Kristine Ellis. 

A fictional story inspired by the students' transition from living in remote Australia to attending boarding school in Toowoomba. Launched on Indigenous Literacy Day 2017 at Brisbane Writers Festival. Pre-order your copy now.

Yakanarra Song Book - Jessie Wamarla Moora, Mary Purnjurr Vanbee and the children of Yakanarra Community School with Chris Aitken and Alison Lester

A collection of 14 beautifully illustrated songs about place, the sounds of the animals and birds, hunting, fishing and more. The 10 Walmajarri songs were written in the 1980s and 1990s by Walmajarri teachers. The 4 songs in English were created by children in Yakanarra at a song writing and illustrating workshop with community elders, and Alison Lester and Chris Aitken. Launched on Indigenous Literacy Day 2017, in Sydney. Pre-order your copy now.

Kunbarlanja Kunbolk - Students of Gunbalanya School with Alison Lester

A colourfully illustrated story of the seasons, animals and landscape in Gunbalanya, and the activities and places that make it special to the kids who live there. Published in 2016 and launched in 2017.

Shallow In The Deep End - Students of Tiwi College, Melville Island (NT) with Jared Thomas and Scholastic Australia

The tale of a water buffalo called Shallow and her friend Bruno the dog, who have a lot of fun, get into a lot of trouble and create a lot of havoc! Launched on Indigenous Literacy Day 2017, in Melbourne.

Shock 'Em - The Big River Hawks AFL team, Dr Anita Heiss, Dr Sandra Phillips, and the Hawthorn Football Club’s Indigenous Program with the Epic Good Foundation

Eight players from Katherine share their stories of a love for football, their heroes and their special places. Stories full of tension, drama, highs and lows - along with plenty of shock 'em moments - that characterise playing in the biggest game in the AFL annual calendar. Buy a copy of Shock 'Em.

The Goanna was Hungry - Students at Spinifex Writing Camp with Ann James and Sally Morgan

Stories of friendship and loyalty, experiments that go badly awry, and the best thing to do with a bone. Then there’s a story about a very scary goanna. Created at a 5-day writing and illustrating camp in Tjuntjuntjara in WA. Buy a copy of The Goanna was Hungry.

Tiwi Girl - Tiwi College Alalinguwi Jarrakarlinga, Melville Island, in collaboration with Harper Collins and Alison Lester

This story of a young Tiwi girl called Mia is a window into students’ lives and focuses on the challenges and choices facing Tiwi girls. Buy a copy of Tiwi Girl.

Nginingawila Ngirramini: Our Story - Tiwi College, Melville Island, in collaboration with Hachette Australia, Anita Heiss and Pamela Freeman

A celebration and window into the lives of these Tiwi Girls - their heroes, sacred places and their happiest memories. Buy a copy of Nginingawila Ngirramini: Our Story.

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