About 75 per cent of the residents in Cunnamulla, a very remote community in Queensland’s south-west are in the ‘most-disadvantaged’ and ‘highly-disadvantaged’ categories, according to the index of relative socio-economic disadvantage.
The town of just over 1,000 people, 80 per cent of whom are Indigenous, is found within the Paroo Shire Counsel. The area doesn’t have many of the physical or social infrastructures of more developed areas of Queensland.
One of the biggest concerns for the local state school is the Naplan results. In Year 3 reading and spelling, only two out of eight students achieved the national standard, while only three made the standard for writing. Just 22 per cent of Year 5 students made the cut in writing and grammar, and only one student in Year 7 and 9 made the grade for writing.
On this landscape, the local library, Cunnamulla Library, is excelling. In 2015, it won not one but two of the state’s most prestigious awards: the Queensland Public Library Local Government award and the Delegate’s Choice.
A year earlier, it was awarded the Queensland Public Libraries Association Big Ideas award. And in 2013, Cunnumulla Library’s After School Reading Club won the Queensland Public Library award.
The librarian Tammy Hicks says the After School Reading Club, which has run since October 2012, “would not function without the ILF books.”
This is one example of how ILF partners with organisations in community to provide essential resources.
While the state library provides books to this council-run library, the students would not have daily access to the books they read after school – and they wouldn’t have access to the books written by Indigenous authors.
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has provided culturally appropriate books as part of its Book Supply program and helped see one of the most disadvantaged communities build new readers.
After School Reading Club
The community’s low literacy rates are what motivated Tammy Hickey to start the After School Reading Club in October 2012.
Each week, between 3 and 4pm, a team of volunteers read with the kids, mark their attendance and keep reports on the kids progress, which are eventually shared with the local schools.
“We want to extend the kids literacy and help schools by extending what they do.” She says. “The kids are coming in after school by themselves. And our numbers haven’t decreased, they’re increasing. Kids want to come and read.”
Students with behavioural problems even come to the library and read of their own accord.
In May 2016, the library was announced as one of four finalists for a Queensland Reconciliation Award. It was nominated for its Glamour Photo Good Behaviour program, according to the Western Times, which words with local schools to reduce truancy and deter bad behaviour.
"It's excellent, we're very excited," Tammy said on hearing the library was shortlisted. The winner will be announced on June 2.