International Literacy Day: Celebrating Stories, Cultures and Languages

International Literacy Day: Celebrating Stories, Cultures and Languages

Image from Indigenous Literacy Foundation

In Australia, education is a right. For a lot, it’s very accessible especially those who are accepted into a Commonwealth-supported public school program, in which case the government will cover the majority of their study expenses. However, that’s not the case for Indigenous people. For many First Nation communities, particularly those in remote areas of Australia, learning can be challenging due to a lack of reading materials and literature as well as low literacy rates and staff. 

Every 1st of September, we spread awareness on this problem and encourage solutions by celebrating Indigenous Literacy Day. Let’s dive into the topic of Indigenous literacy, how this national day came about, and what can we do to help elevate Indigenous literacy.

History of Indigenous Literacy Day

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, an Australian non-profit organisation, organises Indigenous Literacy Day in an effort to increase literacy in isolated communities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Suzy Wilson, a former teacher and proprietor of a bookstore in Brisbane, established the Riverbend Readers Challenge in 2004 with the intention of raising money to increase literacy rates. Over time, it grew into the popular national event we now recognise annually.

The Essence of Indigenous Literacy Day

The annual First Wednesday in September event serves as a fundraiser to collect books for kids living in more remote parts of the nation while also bringing attention to the educational challenges that many Australian Indigenous groups face.

Indigenous Literacy Day offers more than just books; it also honours Aboriginal culture, including the stories and languages that shaped the nation as we know it today. Indigenous literacy is essential for everyone who wants to preserve our distinctive heritage and give fellow Australians opportunity, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The obstacles that Aboriginals face in the modern world are numerous, with literacy and education being among the most significant. Did you know that the literacy rates of non-Indigenous and Indigenous youngsters differ by almost 2.5 years? Additionally, in 2014, just 34.9% of Indigenous pupils who attended schools in remote locations met or surpassed the national minimum standards for Year 7 reading.

What the Indigenous Literacy Foundation Does

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation partners with schools to encourage curricular changes and promote Indigenous youth's continued education. The current figures aren't excellent, with only 24% of children in distant communities attending schools that extend to Year 12 and attendance rates as low as 14% in some remote areas of Australia. This means that a large number of young Indigenous people are unable to complete their education. They miss out on the opportunity to register in a university. They also struggle to apply for the jobs that are only open to those with higher levels of education. These statistics show that there are less opportunities for Aboriginal children to achieve academic success, highlighting the need for additional literacy tools that can actually change things.

There is a focus on providing resources that span a wide variety of Aboriginal languages, in addition to helping to better lives and create avenues to higher education for Indigenous Australians through the books the Indigenous Literacy Foundation distributes. It is important that these kids have access to books written in their mother tongue. Doing so helps to preserve and strengthen the culture for next generations.

Initiatives that Help Contribute to Indigenous Literacy

Image from Koori Curriculum

We have discovered some FirstNations-led initiatives that help elevate Indigenous Literacy.

Koori Curriculum

The Koori Curriculum, an Aboriginal early childhood consultant with offices on the Central Coast of New South Wales, offers a variety of professional development programmes and seminars in order to help educators include Aboriginal viewpoints in early childhood curricula. They also have podcasts and books discussing such matter, as well as educational toys, games and more books. Koori Curriculum helps in Indigenous Literacy in a way that they target educators who are an essential aspect of education. They also travel around Australia just to connect with these educators.

Image fromRiley Callie Resources

Riley Callie Resources

Another one is Riley Callie Resources. Riley Callie Resources came about from a desire to introduce young children to a fun and engaging way of learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which incorporates Indigenous thinking and contexts. They firmly believe that STEM provides an ideal platform to introduce children to the rich knowledge and perspectives of Country. They are passionate about providing educators with authentic Indigenous resources. These make it easy to bring Indigenous perspectives into their classrooms. Using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning which incorporates Indigenous thinking and contexts.

What We Can do To Contribute in Indigenous Literacy

Helping promote Indigenous literacy and preserve Indigenous knowledge shouldn’t only happen on Indigenous Literacy Day. As individuals, we are encouraged to contribute in these cause as much as we could.

You can help  International Literacy Foundation monetarily by bringing an International Literacy Foundation donation box to your school or workplace. You can contact ILF to have one. If you have extra means, why not hold a fundraising event. You can also buy an ILF t-shirt or tote bag for your family and friends to raise awareness. But you can also help raise awareness by sharing their events in your social profiles. They have the National Event where you can register here. Promote this event so many people can listen to the Aboriginal children sharing about their stories and languages.

Further more you can purchase First Nations written literacy and educational learning tools from First Nations led businesses like Riley Callie Resources and Koori Curriculum also you and your kids can listen to Koori Curriculum’s podcasts together. For more First Nations-led educational resources and podcasts, you may check out our NAIDOC week blog. There are also tons of online resources in the National Library of Australia website. 

We can only do so much to help Indigenous Literacy. The mentioned ideas can help. However, it is also important that we put pressure on the people in power. They need to do something about the literacy rate gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Whether it be to implement systemic change, subsidise educational institutions, a big initiative must be done.

Image from Indigenous Literacy Foundation

Final word: DulcieDot believes that every child has the right to education. To have access to school, books, is something that these people deserve. And while learning English helps in enabling Indigenous peoples to connect with the rest of Australia, continuing teaching their native tongue, their native language, is as important in order to preserve the language and pass on to the next generations. Indigenous stories and cultures are beautiful and must be protected, so join us in celebrating Indigenous Literacy Day.