Indigenous Literacy Day at the Sydney Opera House

Indigenous Literacy Day at the Sydney Opera House

On-the-spot language lesson to celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day 

We’re always thrilled to celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day at the Sydney Opera House, and this year’s celebrations were bigger and brighter than ever!

The morning was kick started with a lot of hand clapping and foot stomping, some pretty deadly didge playing and the challenge for the audience – both young and older – to learn a few words of a traditional Indigenous language, Yolngu Matha.

After our ambassador Natalie Ahmat from NITV welcomed hundreds of Sydney school kids and other guests, Aunty Ann Weldon made the Welcome to Country, urging everyone to work together “to create the best country”.

When our ambassador Gregg Dreise took the stage, the audience needed little coaxing to sing along with him. A couple of our special guests – school students from Nhulunbuy Community in Northeast Arnhem Land – joined Gregg in treating us to some mesmerising yidaki (didgeridoo in Yolngu Matha) playing.

Then came the big challenge! As the talented students from Nhulunbuy Primary School read from their beautiful, just-published book for children I Saw We Saw, in both Yolngu Matha (their first language) and English, the audience’s learning skills were put to the test.

“I saw a maranydjalk leaping high,” one read.

“Can you say maranydjalk?” another asked. “In our language, maranydjalk means stingray.”

These students had travelled more than 4000 km from their remote township on the Gove Peninsula to perform on the edge of the sparkling Sydney Harbour, and for most it was their first trip to a big city like Sydney. And what a wonderful performance it was, with everyone in the audience trying their hardest to pronounce the Yolngu Matha words properly.

“Now we can all take a bit of Yolngu Matha home with us,” Natalie said, before introducing our ambassadors Josh Pyke and Justine Clarke who entertained us with their lively iTunes hit, the irresistible “Words Make the World Go Around”.

With everyone eagerly awaiting the Great Book Swap, mentor Lachie Coman introduced seven of our passionate student ambassadors for 2019. In recent weeks, these inspiring young people have been spreading the word about our Foundation, and today their outstanding leadership qualities came to the fore once again as they managed some extremely enthusiastic book swapping.

With hundreds of fabulous books swapped, everyone settled back in their seats and squeezed in a bit of quiet reading time. Silence fell. Which was lucky! Because Natalie was about to make a special announcement.

There was no drum roll, or even another burst of the yidaki, but there was the exciting news that esteemed Aboriginal leader and passionate advocate for social justice June Oscar AO is now co-patron of ILF, along with our current patron, Quentin Bryce AD CVO, the former Governor-General of Australia. What a way to end a great morning!

Happy Indigenous Literacy Day, everyone. And happy reading.

Copies of I Saw We Saw are available at good bookstores nationally or can be ordered here.

Special thanks to our Indigenous Literacy Day sponsor, the Sydney Opera House. Valued supporters include Viva Energy Australia, Penguin Random House, Mitsubishi Australia, Network 10 and Société Générale. Thank you to 1010 Printing International for the printing of I Saw We Saw.

And a HUGE THANK YOU to our enormously dedicated team (pictured below) who include our staff and volunteers. All have worked so hard this year, and especially this week, to put Indigenous Literacy Day on the map.  

  • Posted 04 September, 2019

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