ALIA Dreaming 08 PM Plenary – Anita Heiss

Indigenous Literacy – a national crisis – Anita Heiss -UQ and Flinders

Gap beween indigenous literacy and non-indigenous. By the age of 15, 1/3 of indigenous students dont have the skills to manage in the adult world. In remote areas, these figures are even higher. Indigenous students have much higher adsence rates, lower numeracy skills and with health related to school attendance and literacy skills, this too is poor.

Indigenous Literacy Project and Day were established to deal with these issues. Its a partnership between the APA, ABA and the Fred Hollowes Foundation, to provide books to indigenous communities. The books are chosen by the communities and foundation staff to enhance their pool of literacy resources. Started 4 years ago by Suzie Wilkins. Now operates across the nation, supported by the book industry, authors and authors.

The Project is making a difference, but there is still a lot of work to do. The Foundaition uses a 3 way approach to building literacy and promote cultural, media and English literacy. Projects include literacy resources, writing and publishing projects, a traditional song project, an after-hours music project, community learning centre (inter-agency project which includes a library), aural and visual health, nutrition programs and child/maternal health programs.

How can we help: make libraries and collections relevant and enticing to indigenous people, replenish stocks of indigenous titles and ahve indigenous authored titles, have authors and storytellers in your library, contact publishers of indigenous books and offer your space for launches, author visits etc.

Check indigenous publishers websites: Magabala Books, IAD Press, Aboriginal Studies Press, Keeaira Press and Black Ink Pre ss.

Get familiar with indigenous literature through Black Words (A&TSI writers and story tellers) – a subset of OzLit. The website now lists 1900 authors and storytellers.
You can find biographical information, relevant arts, cultural and literary groups, reviews, critical articles and exerpts from scholarly works. It also includes a calendar of events which traces historical events from 1788. Can be searched by genre, author, heritage and topics.

Question: does anyone from the Foundation visit the parents in remote communities. Anita believed that there is a process of consultation with people on the ground. Nothing is being done on the ground which is not the wishes of the local people.

Question: the concern of loss of language. Not the best person for Anita to comment on – she doesnt have any answer for that.

Question: work being done at the Bachelor Institute – works are being created in their native languages, then translating it into language, which are then being published and will be made available at the Alice Springs public library, as well as their own communities. Anita was happy to hear about this. Indigenous people want to read about things relevant to them, familiar to them.