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Literacy success at Spinifex, Western Australia

Photo of group of participants, sitting and standing on the back of an old truck


Ten kids, five communities and four language groups recently came together with Australian authors and illustrators for the three day Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) Spinifex Writers Camp.

The ILF brought Ann James, Judy Watson and Gregg Dreise over 3,000 kilometres to Tjuntjuntjara, the remotest community in the Great Western Desert. There in the sights and sounds of Spinifex Country, they nurtured and developed the kids’ love of writing and illustrating.

Gregg, a Kamilaroi Yuwalayaay man, used his didgeridoo and didgeridoon’t (a modified didgeridoo) to add vitality and laughter to the workshops. He engaged the students with traditional songs, dances, games and oral stories.

Judy shared her expertise in illustrating and design, creating a host of activities students could explore through different art mediums.
Ann James, who has developed a strong relationship with Tjuntjuntjara students over the years, led the workshops, and did what she does best; she allowed the students to tell their stories through art.

This was the third year the ILF travelled out to Tjuntjuntjara and leading the project was ILF Program Manager, Tina Raye.
“It’s about allowing the country to be the inspiration for the writing,” Tina said.

“And about bringing together groups of interested and talented young storytellers and artists to create stories with the guidance and support of authors and illustrators.”

Most of the kids didn’t know each other at the start of the camp, but by the end of the week, the bonds between them were strong and also with the Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School.
Gregg Dreise said that allowing young minds from remote Australia to share in the ownership of books is a massive leap towards 'closing the gap'.

“So I implore publishers and authors to consider creating books with colourful stories. I urge publishers and illustrators to consider illustrations with colourful characters,” Gregg said.

“I encourage the average Australian to support the work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and donate any little or large amount to help 'open doors' for more Australians to access the wonder of opening the pages of a great book.”