In the last week of July, Nicole Whiles and Cindy Manfong from our team based in Sydney embarked on a field trip to the Kimberley in WA. Over five jampacked days, they travelled long distances by 4-WD to establish and consolidate contacts with several remote communities across this huge region.
“One key purpose was to visit La Grange Remote Community School’s KindiLink program which has received our Book Buzz program for the past 12 months,” says Nicole.
La Grange, also known as Bidyadanga, is 184 kilometres south of Broome, the last part of the trip being over rough dirt road. While there, Nicole and Cindy celebrated our Book Buzz program with the little ones, their parents and the KindiLink teachers.
“We read some of the books, and each child received a book to take home, a book bag and an ILF t-shirt,” explains Nicole.
KindiLink is an initiative of the WA government, and aims to help three year olds and their families develop the skills they’ll need to get a head start when they begin “big school”. Many KindiLink programs, like the one at La Grange, are attached to primary schools.
“One of the teachers has been there for 30 years. She speaks and teaches in various Indigenous languages, and has also written books for the kids herself.”
After a night back in Broome, Cindy and Nicole headed 397 kilometres east along the Great Northern Highway to Fitzroy Crossing, spotting “the biggest snake ever” coiled up on the side of the road en route.
“It was the size of a 4-WD tyre!” Nicole reckons.
After this close shave with a monster python, Cindy and Nicole visited the Baya Gawiy Children and Family Centre. A playgroup meets regularly at the centre, which also provides other services to women and children.
“We provided information about both Book Buzz and Book Supply programs.”
Many at the centre in Fitzroy Crossing were keen to yarn about a recent writing workshop they’d done. Our Lifetime Ambassador and renowned children’s author Alison Lester had worked with the group just the week before on a collection of songs and rhymes from the area.
Next stop was Yakanarra Remote Community School, just 129 kilometres but many hours away. Yakanarra has a long and extremely fruitful relationship with ILF. In 2017 we published the Yakanarra Songbook, which has ten songs in Walmajarri and four in English. While there, Nicole and Cindy caught up with Jessie Moora, a remarkable woman from the community who played a pivotal role in the book’s publication.
“And we had a wonderful celebration of books and reading. Everyone was so happy to see us. The kids all remembered Cindy from their trip to Sydney last year for Indigenous Literacy Day, and gave her big hugs.
Back in Broome, Nicole and Cindy made contact with another KindiLink program, this time at Broome Primary School. The school and KindiLink have been receiving our Book Supply program for some time and had positive feedback about the books and their selection of wonderful titles.
“They really love the Book Buzz packs. One of the teachers, Aunty Maureen is able to translate the books into language as she reads them to the kids.”
Somehow Nicole and Cindy managed to squeeze in a visit to Magabala Books, a long-time Broome-based Aboriginal publishing house that supplies us with many of the titles for our Book Supply program.
“In terms of building key relationships, it was a very productive trip, very worthwhile,” says Nicole. “Everyone loves the books they get from ILF and can’t wait to get more.”