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.

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.

Dame 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 AM ‑ FOUNDER

Suzy was an educator before opening Riverbend Books in Brisbane in 1998. In 2004, she had the idea that it would be logical for the Australian Book Industry to actively support literacy for young Indigenous Australians. This idea grew into the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Suzy is a Life Member of the Australian Booksellers Association. She is a recipient of the Johnno Award, The Dromkeen Medal for “being a catalyst in changing children's lives through literature”, and the Lloyd O’Neil Award for outstanding contribution to the Australian Book Industry.

Our Lifetime Ambassadors

Andy Griffiths

Andy is one of Australia’s most 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..."

Dr Anita Heiss AM

Dr Anita Heiss is a proud Wiradyuri woman and storyteller. She is the author of 23 books across genres, including the novels Tiddas and Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams). Anita is Publisher at Large at Bundyi Publishing, an Ambassador for the GO Foundation, and a Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland.

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.

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 and children's book author author, launched his Busking 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."

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.”

Wayne Quilliam

Aboriginal artist A. Professor Wayne Quilliam is an internationally acclaimed storyteller, curator and cultural advisor. Wayne’s 30 years of experience working in Communities has allowed him to create and curate over 300 photographic and visual art exhibitions, nationally and globally. In 2020, Wayne’s debut book Culture is Life was released, a photo documentary on contemporary Indigenous culture and among many of his awards he was nominated as a Master of Photography by National Geographic.

Kirsten Banks

Kirsten Banks is a proud Wiradjuri astrophysicist and science communicator. She loves to share her passion for space and astronomy with people young and old, both in person at public talks and by making short and fun educational videos on TikTok. Kirsten is doing a PhD at the University of New South Wales studying the nature of ancient stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and hopes to inspire the next generation of young scientists to help answer the Universe’s big questions.

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”.

Dr Deb Dank

Dr Debra Dank is a Gudanji/Wakaja woman and a multi‑award winning author who has worked in teaching and learning for many years. Debra is currently an Enterprise Fellow at the University of South Australia. Debra's book, We Come With This Place waspublished in 2022.

David Lawrence

David is an award‑winning children’s author whose Fox Swift series, co‑written with Cyril Rioli led to a life‑changing trip to the Tiwi Islands. With Shelley Ware he co‑facilitated the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022 ILF Create Initiative writing workshops, that produced the wonderful Japarrika trilogy and Tiwi Seasons with Marius. Through the ILF he has seen first‑hand how reading opens doors. 

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 hat 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 a member of the WA Writers Hall of Fame, and in 2022 was declared a state Cultural Treasure. Kim is currently Professor of Writing at Curtin University.

Ann James AM

In a career spanning 40 years, Ann has illustrated over 80 books. In 1988, she and her partner Ann Haddon established Books Illustrated, promoting Australian picture books and their creators through exhibitions and events in Australia and overseas for 35 years. Ann is passionate about picture books and sees visual narrative and art as a universal language to tell story. It’s been at the heart of the many creative ILF projects she’s been involved with, working with children in Communities all over the country. In 2020 both Anns were awarded Member of the Order of Australia for their work in Australian Children’s Literature, and in 2022 she was nominated Australian Illustrator for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Our Board

Natalie Ahmat, Co‑Chair 

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.

Jacqui Payne, Co‑Chair

Magistrate Jacqueline Payne is the first Indigenous woman to be admitted as a solicitor in Queensland. She worked in criminal defence for fourteen years for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation Legal Service and later in her own successful private practice.

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.

Louise Stark

Louise 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.

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.

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.

Thomas Mayo

Thomas Mayo is a Kaurareg Aboriginal, and Kulkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander man. He is a best selling author and Assistant National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. Thomas has long advocated for social justice issues, including Indigenous and asylum seekers rights. Thomas is a signatory of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and has been a leading advocate since its inception in May 2017.

Amara Barnes

Amara is a proud Wiradyuri yinaa (woman). For the past decade Amara has worked across multiple sectors and industries, including in media, tertiary, community, non-profit and private organisations, towards meaningful and positive outcomes for First Nations peoples. 

Amara is an advocate for First Nations self-determination, through Nation re-building, including the preservation and practice of languages and cultures. She is passionate about re-learning Wiradyuri language and passing it on to her gudha-galang (children).

Nicole Abadee

Nicole Abadee was a barrister and then legal academic for 20 years, with a background in International Law and Human Rights Law. Nicole has worked in the book industry, working as a senior editor at Penguin Random House. She is currently the books writer for Good Weekend Magazine as well as a festival moderator, interviewing writers at writers’ festivals and Australian literary events.Nicole was heavily involved in the Yes Campaign for the 2023 Referendum for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, and co‑founded Writers for the Voice, an advocacy group with over 700 members. 

ILF Community Advisors

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 North East Arnhem Land. She has written 6 books. Her children’s books are written in Yolŋu Matha for use in primary schools as Walking Talking texts. She plays 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. She has also been an important voice for Yolŋu rights. Her vision is that every child is appreciated, and that every child knows that dreams are possible.

Our Staff

Chief Executive Officer ‑ Ben Bowen

Chief Operating Officer ‑ Mike Milnes

Head of Publishing ‑ Nicola Robinson

Publishing Projects Editor ‑ Cindy Manfong

Publishing Projects Editor ‑ Elizabeth Arrigo

Publishing Coordinator ‑ Nea Close‑Brown

Head of Programs ‑ Zoe Cassim 

Regional Program Coordinator: Katherine ‑ Josie Lardy

Programs Manager ‑ TicTac Moore

Regional Program Coordinator: Tiwi Islands ‑ Bella Puruntatameri

Data and Operations Manager ‑ Brad Gambetta

Book Buzz Manager ‑ Jolene Brown

Head of Marketing ‑ Rebecca Finney

Senior Marketing and Events Lead ‑ Emma Toomey

Social Media and Communications Coordinator ‑ Ella Schofield

Graphic Designer ‑ Justine Taylor

Ambassador Manager ‑ Kristin Gill

Head of Fundraising ‑ David Stewart

Community Fundraising Manager ‑ Laura Atherden

Fundraising Officer/Coordinator ‑ Krista Brydges

Fundraising Administrator ‑ Marj Hutchinson

Technology Manager ‑ Peter Fitzgibbon

Accountant ‑ Leila Hosseini

Marketing Intern ‑ Asal Tabaee 

Office Manager ‑ Belinda St Flour 

Head of Human Resources ‑ Katharine Elkan

Our Youth Ambassadors

Lachlan Coman (Youth Ambassador Mentor)

Sidney Edwards
Joshua Lam
Penelope Towney

Our Longtime Volunteers

Janet Hutchinson (Writer)

Maureen Brooks (Research and Events)

Sonia Palmisano (Marketing and Research) 

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

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