Saturday, August 28, 2010
Why you should support the Indigenous Literacy Project
The Indigenous Literacy Project is currently funded solely by donations, volunteers and 'in kind' support from the Australian Book Industry – publishers, booksellers, authors, brilliant illustrators. The groundswell of support for ensuring that Indigenous kids have the same opportunities as other Australian kids inspires me, not only an ILP Ambassador and an Australian author, but as a Wiradjuri woman, because in my community I am considered ‘privileged’ simply because I have had all the benefits that being literate can bring.
I work with a range of Indigenous kids; some are speaking English as a second or third language in remote communities, others are in the gifted and talented programs in urban NSW. The differences between both groups are obvious and extreme. The ‘G&T’ kids know how to dream, they have plans for their futures, they have read about Australia, the world and other universes in books, they engage with their friends in chat rooms and on Facebook because they can ie they know how to write. And the self-esteem in the classrooms of the literate kids is heartwarming. You can imagine what the other end of the spectrum is like. It is often heartbreaking.
We all know that low literacy levels are a major issue affecting Indigenous communities, particularly those in remote areas. Being illiterate is a major barrier to education, employment, health and wellbeing.
I just want to flag the most disturbing of the statistics related to the issue:
• Statistics show that by the age of 12, approximately 85 per cent of Indigenous children in remote and isolated areas are unable to read at the minimum level. By the age of 15, more than a third of Australia’s Indigenous students do not have literacy skills good enough to allow them to meet real life challenges.
• There is an enormous gap in literacy rates for Indigenous people living in remote communities and it emerges at an early age. Non-Indigenous students far outperform Indigenous students in benchmark tests for reading, writing and numeracy in Years 3 and 5. By Year 7, the gap has widened (DEET NT 2006).
• In the NT only one in five children living in very remote Indigenous communities can read at the accepted minimum standard. By Year 7, just 15% achieved this benchmark, 47 percentage points behind their urban Indigenous peers and 74 percent less than non-Indigenous students (DEET NT 2006).
What these statistics tell me is that these kids - in all likelihood - will go onto become adults solely reliant on non-Indigenous people to make decisions for them in key areas of their lives. This is the opposite of self-determination for Indigenous people.
This is why it’s important for us – as members of the general public and also in the publishing industry – to continue to support this project and raise awareness however we can.
You can support the Indigenous Literacy project by going on-line here and making a donation or by purchasing a Book Buzz pack to go into one of our many communities. Or you can simply head into a participating bookstore on September 1st and buy some books, because 10% or more of takings by booksellers and publishers on that day will go directly to the ILP cause. To see where the nearest participating bookstore is, click here. Every little bit helps, and the literacy and self-determination of our kids both need your support.
Finally, a HUGE thanks to all those who supported the I HEART ART fundraiser at the Arthouse hotel in Sydney.
On the evening of Wednesday 25 August I Heart brought together a room full of people and the number of red dots on the artworks indicated the attendees love of books and also eagerness to support The Indigenous Literacy Project. Then award-winning writer and illustrator, Shaun Tan, set to and drew a phenomenal piece in front of the two hundred pairs of eyes in the room. The auction of this work immediately raised $3,000, and then Shaun Tan generously donated two more art pieces, which raised a further $5,000.
Many thanks to Elspeth Menzies, Anna McFarlane and Sarah Tran for putting this very special evening together.
‘You are what you imagine, you imagine what you read, and good books open worlds. All of us who support the Indigenous Literacy Project know this intuitively, but we also know that such inspiration can’t exist without an opportunity, and that’s something we can all help to provide.’ Shaun Tan.