The ILF was founded by Suzy Wilson, a former teacher and education consultant who owns Riverbend Books. We are a not-for-profit charity which respects the unique place of Australia's First People and draws on the expertise of the Australian book industry.

Read a letter from our Board - Indigenous languages and literacy matter. 

Our Patrons and Founder

June Oscar AO - CO-PATRON

June is a proud Bunuba woman from the remote town of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. She is a strong advocate for Indigenous Australian languages, social justice, women’s issues, and has worked tirelessly to reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). June has held a raft of influential positions including Deputy Director of the Kimberley Land Council, chair of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and the Kimberley Interpreting Service and Chief Investigator with WA’s Lililwan Project addressing FASD. Since 2017, she has been the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Quentin Bryce AD, CVO - CO-PATRON

As the first female Governor-General of Australia (2008 - 2014), Quentin has been a pioneering reformer, community builder and leader for more than 40 years. A former Governor of Queensland (2003 - 2008) she has had a distinguished career as an academic, lawyer, community and human rights advisor, senior public officer and university college principal. Her contribution to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children, and the welfare of the family has been recognised in her appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia, a Companion of the Order of Australia, and a Dame in the Order of Australia.

Suzy Wilson - FOUNDER

Founder of the ILF and the owner of Riverbend Books in Bulimba, Brisbane. Before embarking on her career in the Australian Book Industry Suzy was a teacher, an education consultant with Education Queensland and part-time lecturer at Queensland University of Technology. In 2010, she was awarded the Dromkeen Award for her efforts in 'being a catalyst in changing children's lives through literature’.  She was honoured as the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Johnno Award by Queensland Writers Centre. She was awarded the 2018 Lloyd O’Neil Award at the ABIAs, which recognises outstanding service to the Australian Book Industry by an individual, and was named a Life Member of the Australian Booksellers Association at the 2018 ABA Conference for her twenty plus years of experience, dedication and passion in the bookselling industry.

Our Lifetime Ambassadors

Andy Griffiths

Andy is one of Australia’s post popular children’s authors with New York Times bestsellers, adapted for the stage and television and having won more than 50 Australian children’s choice awards. "Imagine a world in which everybody has clean air, fresh water, healthy food, someone to love and someone who loves them, a roof over their head, and, most important of all, a good book to read and the ability to read it ... sure, you might say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."

Kate Grenville

Kate’s novels include The Secret River, The Lieutenant and Sarah Thornhill. "Literacy opens so many doors that otherwise stay closed: doors into education and jobs, but also into the minds and imaginations and hearts of other humans all over the planet. Verbal literacy isn't the only door, by any means - but having access to it is a choice that no one should miss out on.”

Dr Anita Heiss

Anita, of the Wiradjuri nation, is an author, poet, satirist and social commentator. Her 17 books include Sydney 1937 and Paris Dreaming, which won the Deadly Award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Literature. “Literacy is essential to Aboriginal people's self-determination. If we cannot read we cannot make the decisions that inevitably impact on our lives."

Alison Lester AM

Alison’s picture books mix imaginary worlds with everyday life, encouraging children to believe in themselves, such as the Clive Eats Alligators series and the award-winning One Small Island. Alison is involved in many community art projects and spends part of every year travelling to remote Indigenous communities, using her books to help children and adults write and draw about their own lives. In 2012 and 2013 Alison, along with Boori Pryor, was appointed Australia's first Children's Laureate.

David Malouf

David is an award-winning poet and novelist whose books include Johnno, Remembering Babylon, and Every Move You Make. "Reading brings the world to us. But reading can also open up a new world of people and events we have never imagined but which we can enter and become part of. This kind of reading takes us out of ourselves ...into other skins. Reading is a form of magic."

Josh Pyke

Josh, an ARIA award-winning singer, launched his 'Buskin for Change' in 2009 to raise support for the ILF. "The work ILF do in raising literacy levels in Indigenous communities is about introducing choice to people. Kids and adults who can read can choose to pursue further education, better job opportunities … or simply enjoy the brilliant escape that reading can offer."

Justine Clarke

Justine is an award-winning actress and long-standing presenter on ABC TV’s Play School. She has won an ARIA Award for Best Children’s Album with her fourth CD, A Little Day Out, and she’s also published best-selling children’s picture books The Gobbledygook Is Eating A Book and The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle and released a CD-book called The Ugly Duckling.

Our Ambassadors

Richard Flanagan

Richard is one of Australia's finest novelists, winning the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. He donated one of his prizes to our Foundation saying: "If one of those books helps a few children to advance beyond the most basic literacy to one that is liberating, then I will consider the money better spent.”

Ursula Yovich

Ursula is a Helpmann award-winning actor and singer, and an Indigenous advocate. She has appeared in The Gods of Wheat Street, Redfern Now, Devil’s Dust and Rake on TV and her films include Australia and Jindabyne. She has sung at many of the world’s major venues, including Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House.

Deborah Cheetham, AO

Deborah, an international soprano and Yorta Yorta woman, created Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, which led to the forming of the Short Black Opera Company. "I am keen to help encourage Indigenous children to find their voice through the power of literacy whilst strengthening an understanding about Indigenous ways of knowledge transfer."

Gregg Dreise

Gregg is a gifted artist, storyteller and musician, and he features the didgeridoo and guitar in his performances at schools, libraries and festivals. He is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people. He is the author and illustrator of Silly BirdsKookoo KookaburraMad MagpieCunning Crow, Awesome Emu, My Culture and Me, Hello and Welcome, Today's Sun and Common Wealth. His stories proudly address his Culture: including friendship; kindness; tempers; bullying; being humble; and social change. Gregg is also the illustrator of the classic story Tiddalik the Frog, and has poetry with his illustrations in the anthology A Boat of Stars.

He is very proud to be helping the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to bring books, laughter confidence and fun to remote communities around Australia.

Jessica Mauboy

Jessica is one of Australia’s most popular singers, songwriters and actresses. Jessica has spent time in many remote communities and understands the challenges and barriers to literacy that exist in these areas. “Kids in these communities are smart and often speak 2-3 languages, but English is often not their first language and they can therefore struggle to cope at school.” 

Shelley Ware

Shelley Ware is a proud Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman from Adelaide but currently lives in Melbourne. She has worked as a radio and television presenter on both local and national AFL football news shows, particularly as a panel member of NITV’s Marngrook Footy Show and as a weekly guest on The Point discussing AFL issues. She is a member of the Carlton FC RAP and the AFLW All Australian and Rising Star Selection committees. Shelley also works as an educator at Kew Primary School in Melbourne where she has coordinated a Literacy Intervention program and is currently the middle and senior school Art teacher.

Dr Jared Thomas

Jared is a Nukunu person and author, playwright and academic, whose books include Sweet Guy and Calypso Summer, for which he was awarded the Kuril Dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship. Jared facilitated a 2016 ILF Create Initiative workshop with Tiwi College and said the forthcoming book created by the students “provided readers with the joy, connection and youth of the Tiwi people, country and culture”.

Natalie Ahmat

A proud Mudburra and Maluyligal woman, journalist Natalie Ahmat is passionate about telling stories through an Indigenous lens. Natalie currently presents NITV News, Australia’s only dedicated Indigenous television news bulletin, and is a regular contributor on NITV’s current affairs program, “The Point”.  Since joining the inaugural NITV News team in 2008, Natalie has travelled around the country reporting on First Nations issues, and has anchored the channel’s live coverage of some of the most significant Indigenous events in recent history, including Garma from north east Arnhem Land, the Uluru First Nations Constitutional Convention, and the National NAIDOC Awards.

David Lawrence

David wears a lot of hats. He runs a corporate acting business (with comedian Jo Gill), has written for numerous TV shows and “accidentally” became a children’s author in 2008. His AFL inspired Fox Swift series, co-written with Cyril Rioli led to a life-changing trip to the Tiwi Islands. He facilitated (with Shelley Ware) the 2017 and 2018 ILF Creative Initiative writing workshops, where 10 incredibly talented Tiwi College Students produced the wonderful story Japarrika and Japarrika Rises respectively.

Kim Scott

Kim is a multi-award winning novelist. Benang (1999) was the first novel by an Indigenous writer to win the Miles Franklin Award and That Deadman Dance (2010) also won Australia’s premium literary prize. Proud to be one among those who call themselves Noongar, Kim is founder and chair of the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project ( and, with Noongar elder Hazel Brown, wrote Kayang and Me (2005).  He is currently the Professor of Writing at Curtin University, and recently two awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Andrew Daddo

Andrew's managed to have a crack at just about every aspect of the entertainment industry - appearing on TV, radio, podcasts and stage. But although Andrew currently appears on The Golf Show for Foxsports, he is perhaps most importantly, an accomplished author.

He's written 25 books of various sizes, weights and colours. Picture books, chapter books, short story collections, novels and a vague biography. He also talks up literacy in schools across Australia and is very pleased to be an ambassador for The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Ann James

In a career spanning over 35 years, Ann James has illustrated over 70 books and with partner Ann Haddon runs Books Illustrated, specialising in promoting picture books and creators through exhibitions in Australia and overseas. Ann was a director on the Board of The Australian Society of Authors and a founding director on the Board of the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation. In 2000 both Anns were awarded the Pixie O’Harris Award, and in 2002 was awarded the Dromkeen Medal. In 2016, the Anns were each awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for their work in Australian Children’s Literature.

Debra Dank (Cultural Ambassador)

Debra, a Gudanji woman, has been an integral part of ILF from the outset, first when we were the Indigenous Literacy Project in partnership with the Fred Hollows Foundation and then as Program Manager from 2011 to 2012. She is now a Lecturer in Indigenous Studies at Charles Darwin University.

Our Board

Dr Marnie O'Bryan, co-Chair

Marnie is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University and an Honorary Fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. Marnie has a particular interest in the education opportunities and outcomes for First Nations young people from remote Australia. She has worked extensively in education, both as a teacher and as coordinator of the Victorian Indigenous Education Network. Marnie commenced her professional career working as a commercial lawyer in Melbourne and then in the legal publishing fraternity in London.

Professor Tony Dreise, co-Chair

Professor Tony Dreise (pronounced 'drice') is a proud member of the Guumilaroi and Euahlayi First Nations of north-west New South Wales and south-west Queensland. Tony is the Pro Vice Chancellor, First Nations Education and Research at the University of Southern Queensland. He holds a Bachelor of Teaching, a Master of Public Administration, and a Doctor of Philosophy. He is nationally and internationally recognised as a First Nations leader in policy, evaluation, and research in the field of education and Indigenous affairs. Tony also has a long record in public administration and education senior executive leadership.

Tony has a strong interest in the relationship between research, evaluation, and policy. He brings innovative ideas to the interface between social and economic research and the policy community. Tony also has considerable experience in the NGO sector, having chaired and served on a variety of national and regional boards.

Anna Low

Anna, a bookseller for more than 20 years, bought Potts Point Bookshop in Sydney in 2007, winning the 2016 Bookseller of the Year Award. She is passionate about books and reading and has been on various industry committees, including the Australian Publishing Association Design Awards and the Australian Booksellers Association Kids Reading Guide. She’s also been a judge on the Miles Franklin Award from 2012 to 2014.

Laura Harris 

Laura studied English Literature and History at University, specialising in Archaeology and Primary Sources. She completed a Bachelor in Education and taught High School for approximately six months before landing an Editorial Traineeship at the NSW School Magazine. 

She moved to HarperCollins Publishers as a Senior Editor, and in 1995 she became Publisher, Adult and Children’s Books. Laura joined Penguin Books Australia in 1999 as Publisher, Books for Children and Young Adults. In March 2016 she was appointed Publishing Director, Penguin Random House Australia, Young Readers.

In 2017 she visited the Tiwi Islands with the ILF and became involved with the Create Program which saw the Tiwi College girls visit the PRH offices in Melbourne and Sydney where they wrote, illustrated and edited their book series Japarrika.

Leitha Assan

Leitha is a Badhu ipikazz (woman) from the Torres Strait. Her experience involves working with communities within the Torres Strait region delivering cultural maintenance programs and projects that sustains, maintains and develops culture, language, art and heritage as well as supporting economic initiatives through them. She is most passionate about supporting language preservation programs and education systems in her communities, and was a key member of the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Advisory Committee that had been instrumental in the development of the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan and Charter.

Paul Macdonald, Secretary

Paul Macdonald owns the award-winning The Children's Bookshop which has been a Sydney literary institution since 1971. Paul has a Master of Education, working almost 20 years as a teacher of Upper Primary and Secondary.

He has won numerous awards in teaching such as a Quality Teacher Award and The Premiers English Scholarship. Paul won the inaugural Maurice Saxby Award in 2012 for his contributions to raising the profile of teen fiction. Paul Macdonald also was the winner of the 2016 Lady Cutler award for services to children's literature and literacy in Australia.

Paul not only manages The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency but is also a consultant working with numerous schools focusing on building reading cultures and he is currently completing his PhD focusing on Australian Young Adult literature.

Paul is the author of the picture book The Hole Idea and has written several other academic texts.

Louise Sherwin-Stark

Louise Sherwin-Stark left Brisbane after university for adventures in Europe and landed in publishing in London. She held a variety of sales and marketing roles at Ryland Peters & Small, Faber & Faber and Hodder & Stoughton before returning home as the Sales & Marketing Director of Hodder & Stoughton at Hachette Australia. Louise then spent a very interesting couple of years at Google Play as their UK and Australian store merchandiser and at Bloomsbury as their Australian MD.  She is currently CEO of Hachette Australia & New Zealand and is passionate about promoting the benefits of reading to all Australians.

Michael Aird

Michael Aird is Director of the UQ Anthropology Museum and Research Fellow. He has worked in the area of Aboriginal arts and cultural heritage since 1985 maintaining an interest in documenting aspects of urban Aboriginal history and culture. In 1996 he established Keeaira Press an independent publishing house, producing over 35 books. He has curated over 30 Exhibitions and has been involved in numerous projects in the area of art, history and research.

Alicia Stewart

Alicia has been in the financial services industry for more than 20 years. She has lived in the north west of WA and spent time visiting many remote Aboriginal communities across the north of Australia. She is an advocate for developing financial confidence and has been able to utilise her professional experience to provide practical support through her current role as Manager of Indigenous Business at Westpac.

Alicia has also been a volunteer educator with Primary Ethics in NSW and believes literacy is a life skill that leads to knowledge, opportunity and success, which underlines why she is committed to supporting the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Mark Rubbo 

Mark Rubbo, the Managing Director of Readings and a past president of the Australian Booksellers Association, was founding chair of the Melbourne Writer's Festival. He also established the Readings Foundation, which contributes to literacy and cultural projects and funds two writing prizes. In 2016, Readings won the International Bookstore of the Year as part of the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards.

Gavin Williams

Gavin Williams is the owner of Matilda Bookshop, and has been selling books on Peramangk Land since he and his wife bought the bookshop in 2008. He has been on the Australian Booksellers Association board since 2017 and is currently Treasurer of the association. He is a passionate believer in the positive capacity of books to unlock new worlds and possibilities, and feels that they should be available to all, no matter where they live.

Yalmay Yunupingu

Yalmay Yunupingu is an Honorary University Fellow, with the Office of Pro Vice Chancellor - Indigenous Leadership, Charles Darwin University (CDU) since 2015. Yalmay is a Yolŋu Rirratjiŋu woman from Yirrkala in Northern Territory. She holds a Bachelor of Education - in Teaching & Learning with CDU as well as a Diploma in Teaching and Learning through the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. 

Yalmay was appointed Principal of Yirrkala School in 2007 and for nine years practised as a Teacher Linguist and has worked with the Department of Education for a decade. She has a long history as an educationalist, and is a strong advocate of the bilingual program “Two Way Learning” philosophy and is very passionate about it. In 2013, she was selected as one of four finalists for the 2013 Human Rights medal, from the Australian Human Rights Commission, and in 2020 delivered a powerful keynote speech at the inaugural National Indigenous Human Rights Awards. Yalmay graduated with a Bachelor of Education - Teaching & Learning from Darwin in 2016. 

Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs

Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs is a proud Yolŋu woman and leader from northeast Arnhem Land. She has written six books. Four of her books are written in Yolŋu Matha for use in primary schools as Walking Talking texts. She has played an important role in the bilingual education movement in Arnhem Land working with Yolŋu Elders to develop both-ways learning. She has developed a series of Yolŋu curriculum materials currently in use in Arnhem Land.

Merrkiyawuy is a member of an Indigenous-academic collaboration with academics from Macquarie University and the University of Newcastle and is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Environment and Geography at Macquarie University.

Our Staff

Chief Executive Officer - Ben Bowen

Chief Operating Officer - Mike Milnes

Publishing Manager - Kathy Mossop

Program Manager - Linda Augusto

Publishing Coordinator - Cindy Manfong

Language and Digital Coordinator - Laura Sterling

Regional Program Coordinator: Katherine - Josie Lardy

Regional Program Coordinator: Tiwi Islands - TicTac Moore

Regional Program Assistant: Tiwi Islands - Bella Puruntatameri

Early Literacy Coordinator - Jolene Brown

Communications and Marketing Manager - Lisa Flower

Communications Lead - Elizabeth Arrigo

Marketing Assistant - Ella Schofield

Graphic Designer - Justine Taylor

Relationship Manager - David Stewart

Donor Engagement Officer - Laura Atherden

Customer Relationship Administrator - Brad Gambetta

Technology Coordinator - Peter Fitzgibbon

Accounts Administrator - Leila Hosseini

Office Administrator - Emma Toomey

Transition Support Consultant - Natalie Ahmat (Consultant)

Human Resources - Mel Tunbridge (Consultant)

Our Longtime Volunteers

Mel Williams (Events and Research)

Janet Hutchinson (Writer)

Maureen Brooks (Research and Events)

Darren Burden (Website)

Sonia Palmisano (Marketing and Research) 

Milly Crawford (Marketing and Research)

Gavin Crawford (Marketing and Admin)

There are also a number of casual volunteers that support us during busy times and at events. 

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