Bringing fun back into reading on the Tiwi Islands

Bringing fun back into reading on the Tiwi Islands

The annual Tiwi trip is unlike any other community trip our Foundation goes on. What makes it so distinctive is the incredibly rich two-way exchange of learning and experience; for Tiwi students as well as for our team. Over the last six years of visiting Melville Island, the relationships with Milikapiti School and community, and Tiwi College have continued to grow. 

Our ambassadors Justine Clarke, Alison Lester, Gregg Dreise and Anita Heiss; our Publishing Partner, Jessica Owen from Penguin Random House and Sue Beecher from Wendy Brooks Consulting, along with ILF staff have recently returned from this trip. 

We were welcomed with distinctive warmth and openness; some children enthusiastically calling out to our author ambassadors on the street, recognising them from previous years. Our ambassadors, who dove right in to running workshops at the two different schools, reciprocated this enthusiasm wholeheartedly.

As Tina Raye, our Programs Manager assures, the whole point of the Tiwi trip is to “have fun”.

She explains the real need to entice children into what is really fun about reading.

“We aim to go into schools with some chaos; to disrupt things in a positive way, and involve children in fun activities based around literacy, whether it's reading, sharing, telling, creating and illustrating stories, or song.”

The fun began at Milikapiti School over a full-day ‘Literary Festival’. Here, our ambassadors joined forces to engage the children in a huge range of diverse workshops.

Author, illustrator and performer Gregg Dreise pulled together his many talents in his workshops. He performed Mad Magpie though story, song and didgeridoo to an audience of mesmerised children, and adults who couldn’t contain their laughter. As didgeridoo is not common on Tiwi, the kids loved watching his contemporary, ‘techno’ style of playing.

The fun continued in Alison Lester’s workshop, where kids got to play with a huge range of new and exciting art supplies. Foraging through the garden, they picked out leaves, sticks, and anything else they could find, to create pencil-rubbing style textured illustrations - then layered with watercolours.

In Anita Heiss’ workshops, children were encouraged to put their imaginations to work and ‘think outside the box’– using fabrics, jewellery and other goodies to create characters. This tactile way of crafting a character encourages children to really delve into creative thinking.  

With the day nearing a close, Justine Clarke kept energy levels buzzing with her performance of a special song she and fellow ambassador Josh Pyke wrote in 2016 with students from Gawura School, Words Make the World Go Round. 

On top of this, children were able to sit down and read books with our team in storytime sessions throughout the day, as well as visit the ILF bookshop to select their favourites to take home.

A moment ingrained in Tina’s mind from the trip was watching one little boy select a giant non-fiction book – then another one even larger – and cram them both into his little yellow ILF bag. Then needing to enlist the help of a friend to carry the load, they walked home with the backpack dangling between them, each gripping either arm. 

This day at Milikapiti was wrapped up with a celebration hosted by the school. Here, Justine was selected by an Elder as the ‘chosen one’, painted in ochre and invited to join in traditional song and dance. Children sung Words Make the World Go Round with Justine and showed their appreciation through Tiwi dance led by elders and artists from Jilamara Art Centre.

After a day filled with cultural explorations, including visiting the local arts centre, and the local community store, the team travelled to Tiwi College. Here we worked with an older group of children, so there was slightly less ‘fun’ to be had - and more knuckling-down work to be done.

Our ambassadors teamed up with various age groups to delve into literary and illustrative workshops. While Anita explored creative writing inspired from videos with the middle school girls; Justine encouraged the primary class to create their own monster characters from her Gobbleydook book and shared songs with the junior girls; and Gregg told stories and showed the students illustrative techniques using watercolour backgrounds and black and white fineliner pens with the middle school boys. Jessica Owen, Senior Editor from Penguin Random House, assisted the Senior Young Women’s class in editing their book Japarrika, through the Create Initiative - the fifth book published by the senior girls at this school!

This book was officially launched at the community celebration that afternoon, with over 100 copies being given out.

This marked the end of a hugely successful trip for our Foundation. Tina says the diversity of the ambassadors that came along, combined with willing and enthusiastic students, resulted in a hugely satisfying experience for everyone involved. While she has been has strong ties to the islands, and is generally recognised by the locals, it was the authors being recognised that made the trip really meaningful. This is a great symbol of the literary work being developed here; as authors and illustrators are now being seen as role models to aspire to. We can’t wait to get back to Tiwi Islands next year and for these relationships to continue to grow!



  • Posted 21 May, 2018

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