Indigenous Literacy Day at Sydney Opera House

Indigenous Literacy Day at Sydney Opera House

It’s always exciting to celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day at Sydney Opera House and this morning was no exception.

The program kicked off with Natalie Ahmat from NITV welcoming 200 kids and their teachers from schools across Sydney. Uncle Ray Davison made the Welcome to Gadigal Country, telling the children “The future belongs to you.”

Musician, composer and ILF ambassador Josh Pyke then took to the stage. After a few quick try-outs the entire audience was singing along to “Words Make the World Go Round”, the song Josh co-wrote last year with Justine Clarke and the Gawura Choir from St Andrews School in Sydney. The song quickly went to #1 on iTunes when it was released in 2016 and it’s not hard to see why.

The song ended with Josh leading a “call and response”: How do you spell love? L-O-V-E. How do spell life? L-I-F-E. Words do indeed make the world go round!

Apart from celebrating ILD we also were there to celebrate the launch of a wonderful new publication, The Yakanarra Song Book. Children’s author and ILF lifetime ambassador Ms Lester did the honours. Ms Lester talked about the trip she made with Chris Aitken two years ago to Yakanarra in WA. In this “beautiful country with huge skies”, as she described it, Alison worked with community elders, Yakanarra school children and Chris to illustrate and develop the book, which ILF has now proudly published.

The book is a selection of songs, ten in Walmajarri (four in English) , and following its launch the audience was treated to a performance of three of the songs, sung by community elders Jessie Moora and Mary Vanbee, accompanied by the kids from Yakanarra Community School. They’d all travelled for more than two days to get from their remote township to the big smoke. And what a performance it was, with the audience unable to resist clapping along. The words in Walmajarri were up on an overhead screen for anyone who felt tempted to join in!

After the applause died down author and ILF lifetime ambassador Anita Heiss asked the kids in the audience if they had a favourite book. The show of hands was stupendous. “When I count to 3,” Anita said, “yell out the title.” Somewhere in the ensuing din of answers there was mention of The 13th Storey Treehouse. Or was it The 91st

Anita then announced the GREAT BOOK SWAP for 2017. Everyone had brought along a book to swap, in exchange for a gold coin donation to the ILF. All monies raised will help us gift culturally appropriate books to remote Indigenous communities.

The chilly westerly roaring its way into the Opera House foyer each time the automatic doors opened did nothing to quell the enthusiasm as hundreds of books were swapped. Back inside the Studio, the kids had just enough time for a quick, quiet read before heading back to school.

Happy Indigenous Literacy Day! And happy reading.

  • Posted 06 September, 2017