“We need to write and publish our own books, in our own languages.”
– Leitha Assan, Torres Strait Islander and ILF Board Director
Early in May, ILF team members Tina Raye (Program Director) and Leonie Short (Program Manager) headed to some remote islands in the Torres Strait, off the tip of Cape York Peninsula.
This is our first field trip to this region and we’re very excited at the prospect of publishing some children’s books in Kalaw Kawaw Ya, a dialect of Kala Lagaw Ya, the traditional language spoken on Boigu, Saibai and Dauan islands.
ILF Board Director and Badhu yoepkazz (woman) from the Torres Strait, Leitha Assan, along with Ella Kris, Manager – Health & Wellbeing/IKC Torres Strait Island Regional Council and Writer also from the Torres Strait, worked with Tina and Leonie to facilitate a series of writing and illustrating workshops. All in collaboration with community members on the three islands and with the support of schools in the region.
Leitha is passionate about supporting language preservation programs and education systems in her communities and for the past few years has been a key member of a dedicated group of Islanders who have developed the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan and Charter.
“Language is the glue that binds us,” Leitha explains.
Leitha’s work in language, culture and education, and Ella's writing background and work in Indigenous Knowledge Centres and grassroots projects in the Torres Strait, all fits well with our Community Publishing Projects program, and it’s wonderful that both incredibly talented women are able to bring her long experience and considerable knowledge about Islander culture to these workshops.
Our hope is that the books produced as a result of this field trip will help further the promotion, revitalisation and maintenance of traditional Torres Strait languages. The books we publish in Kalaw Kawaw Ya – by Torres Strait Islanders, for Torres Strait Islanders – will be gifted to those island communities where this language is spoken and being taught through language and culture lessons to the children.