In early August 2010, the ILP’s team of booksellers, publishers and the intrepid children’s author Andy Griffiths went out to the Kimberley Region to provide some writing and music workshops with the kids of the surrounding schools. Malcolm Edwards CEO of Hachette Australia, Matthia Dempsey from Thorpe, Juliet Rogers CEO of Murdoch Books, Michael Moynahan CEO of HarperCollins, Libby O’Donnell from the APA, Robyn Huppert from the ABA were there to represent the publishing industry. The group had to cover a huge distance, as the trip began in Broome and ended in Kununurra – they’re distances Fred Hollows Foundation workers Maddy Bower and Deb Dank often need to cover in their work for the ILP in creating the relationships with the communities necessary to work with them on ILP initiatives.
The first day saw the team deliver a box of books to the Broome residential college, where 65 students from remote communities live to attend schools both primary and secondary. Previously their bookshelf was quite bare, and the books that were there were less than engaging: copies of the Reader’s Digest and Pony Pals. The ILP’s box of books included young adult titles from a range of Australian authors, and some blockbusters like Robert Muchamore’s Cherub books. The group also visited the Magabala Books offices, to see the work that the Indigenous press does.
At Fitzroy Crossing, the group met the Junjuwa Women’s Group in Fitzroy Crossing where they watched the women working, and delivered arts supplies kindly donated by the Artshed in Brisbane. The women hope eventually to make a living from their arts.
Suzy Wilson from Riverbend Books ran writing workshops at Nindilingarri Cultural Centre with a group of children who’d driven 110kms from Yakanarra for the day. The kids learnt how to write their own stories and illustrate them with art materials brought by the ILP. They wrote stories about basketball and going fishing.
At St Joseph’s Catholic School in the Kimberleys the kids came up with some very imaginative and funny stories. One young boy wrote about a crocodile who likes to eat people, but whose favourite food is naked people! There were stories about football games too – always a popular subject that gets a lot of the young boys engaged – but the real surprise was that when Andy asked if any of the kids would like to read out their stories, every single one of them lined up and took turns. Our experience so far has been that the kids are very shy of reading in front of a group. It was wonderful to see their confidence and how happy they were with having written books of their own.
At Wyndham Central District High School, some of the children were less certain of their reading ability. The girl Suzy Wilson worked with needed Suzy to write the words for her, and had no confidence in sounding out her words. However, after they’d finished writing and illustrating the book together, Suzy had her read it back several times. She gave Suzy her first smile when she was able to read the whole thing through by herself; “I did it!” she said.