For the past five years, the Gungarde Community Centre Aboriginal Corporation in Cooktown has been distributing books gifted by the ILF Book Supply program.
Aboriginal children attending schools in Cooktown, Bloomfield, Laura and Rossville, where once books were in very short supply, are now benefiting from an ongoing stream of brand new, culturally appropriate books, many written by Indigenous authors.
“The schools are very appreciative of the books, and the kids love them,” says Greg Whittaker, the CEO of the Corporation, which was started by Elders in the late 1970s.
The Centre not only provides accommodation and health services, but also helps Aboriginal people in the Cooktown area with access to education as well as work opportunities. It runs several programs, including PACE, which assists Aboriginal youth with the transition from school to work or apprenticeship.
Some of the ILF books distributed by the centre are used in the HIPPY program, conducted weekly in family homes. This two-year, early learning and parenting program is designed to help young children make the most of starting school. The pre-schoolers particularly engage with the books from ILF that have illustrations by Aboriginal artists, explains Greg.
About 100 of the books gifted by our Foundation are kept in a small informal library on a bookshelf in the boardroom at the centre. Parents who drop in for assistance or information are able to borrow the books to read at home with their children.
“Many of them come across the books for older kids and start reading them themselves,” says Greg.
There are generally no or very few books in these families’ homes, but sharing the books this way allows the youngsters to develop an early love of learning which will stand them in good stead, not just at school but throughout their lives.
“It’s definitely working well,” Greg says of the ILF Book Supply. “It really makes a lot of difference. The benefits are underestimated.”