Travel Without Limits Winter/Autumn 2024 Issue OUT NOW! Subscribe Here →

INDIGENOUS LITERACY DAY – OUR EXPERIENCE VISITING A COMMUNITY

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day. A day to spread the word about improving literacy levels and opportunities for Indigenous children living in some of the most remote and isolated parts of our country. We need to raise awareness about the gap which exists in reading levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. With the help of others, we recently tried to make a difference in a small way and here’s our story.

Travel sometimes delivers the most unexpected rewards and experiences and that’s why we love it. Our trip to Central Australia gave our family (particularly AJ) an experience we won’t ever forget. We had the opportunity to visit an Indigenous community and AJ lists this along with a visit to another Indigenous community in Darwin as two of her highlights from the trip.

Indigenous Literacy Day
AJ having fun with the kids from the community.

AJ loves children and hopes to work with them in the future. I had similar aspirations at her age and did work experience at a school and at Barnados with social work in mind. I somehow detoured into travel but I’m keen to support AJ in her pursuits. Given her interest in working with children I thought it would be wonderful if she could have a meaningful connection with Indigenous children. I feel in Sydney we are removed from the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in remote areas of Australia. Our trip proved educational and heartwarming.

COLLECTING THE GOODS

Indigenous Literacy Day
AJ’s collection covered the double bed and then some.

AJ asked her year group at school if they would help her in supporting the community we were to visit by providing warm clothes, books, stationery supplies, balls and other small items. They contributed so much to AJ’s project we had to ask Jetstar if they would donate additional luggage for our trip. Jetstar kindly donated another bag of luggage for our flight. Knowing the great divide in literacy levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians we were keen to take lots of books with us. We contacted our friends at Parragon Books and they amazingly provided two large boxes of books. We were overwhelmed by their generosity. The variety of books was perfect for the different aged children. We were so excited to visit the community and weren’t really sure what to expect.

THE JOURNEY

Indigenous Literacy Day
The journey to the community

The journey to the community was an experience in itself. The colours of the soil, the contrast of the blue sky and the ever-changing landscape kept us all mesmerised. I was dreading the drive on unsealed road but it was fantastic. We visited the first community with the assistance of the Mutitjulu Foundation. We did the 2.5hour drive from Yulara after rain. It proved an exhilarating experience driving around and through the muddy water left lying on the road. At times our wipers worked furiously to clear the water from our windscreen but as the water hit the roof there was no wiper to clear the sun roof!

Indigenous Literacy Day
The stunning scenery on our drive.

OUR VISIT

Walking into a childcare centre and school in a remote community, even with donations, is a strange experience. We learnt that Indigenous people are shy by nature and for many in remote areas, English is their fifth or sixth language. They have many dialects they learn before English. Everyone seemed a little unsure. My blogging buddy Rebel, from Rebel Without a Pause, had told me that on a trip to Fiji an Instax camera was popular with the local children. I can’t thank Rebel enough for that piece of advice because when AJ took out her Instax camera the ice was broken. It was gorgeous to see the kids posing for photos and then walking around watching their picture emerge on the paper.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Say, “Cheese.”

Even the workers at the childcare centre lined up to have their photos taken.

Once everyone was warmed up and friendly AJ handed out some of the books and items she had brought with her. I loved watching the little girl pictured below take her book and tightly tuck it under her arm.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Sharing the books around

The kids and staff were all so stimulated by the new resources. It was wonderful to see everyone getting stuck in right away. Puzzles were solved, sticker books were explored and books were read.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Everyone enjoying the books and puzzles

We had taken a packet of balloons as a last minute addition and we had so much fun batting the balloons to the kids and watching them catch them. The kids were incredibly co-ordinated and had a real thirst to learn. We could see the difference the right resources can make to providing a stimulating atmosphere for the kids and staff alike.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Keen to learn

Whatever we drew on the board the kids copied.

ACCESS

Indigenous Literacy Day
Ramp access

I was amazed to arrive at this childcare centre in such a remote area of Central Australia and find that not only did the centre have ramp access but also a fully accessible bathroom with flip-down shower seat.

The other thing that struck us was that despite the remoteness of the community no-one stared or even took a second look at BJ in his wheelchair or seemed remotely concerned at any of his joyous sounds. It was an incredibly accepting environment.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Playing with the kids

We really didn’t want to leave the centre, it was so much fun playing with the kids and seeing them become comfortable with us all. Thanks to the generosity of Parragon Books we had more books than the childcare centre needed and the lovely Mandy from Mutitjulu Foundation organised for us to visit the primary school next door where we presented the rest of the books. The teachers were thrilled with the resources and gave AJ the opportunity to address the school kids. She had taken a laminated book she made about her life in Sydney. We figured living in the centre of Australia, far away from the ocean, they may be interested to know more about coastal life.

It’s hard to express what an exhilarating day this was for our family. We left with hearts overflowing with joy and feeling slightly more connected to our Indigenous culture. I can’t think of a greater way to connect AJ to Indigenous children.

DARWIN COMMUNITY

We were so fortunate to have another opportunity to visit a community in Darwin. The community in Darwin had more resources and was in the heart of the city. There were similar challenges to the previous community but without the remote location.

The day we visited the community they were learning skills from Corrugated Iron, a performing arts group. We watched as the kids did acrobatic flips over tables and tried their hand at other skills.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Visiting Corrugated Iron had the kids jumping with joy
Indigenous Literacy Day
AJ had a great little friend in this guy.

AJ made a friend in the little boy above who was totally enthralled with her Instax camera.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Watching the magic appear

AJ took his photo, then it was his turn to take a photo of Bapi, their pet snake – yes, you read right, a pet snake at the centre.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Taking a pic of the resident pet snake

The passion of the staff at the centre was infectious. I asked the staff what they liked about working in the community and one of the girls said she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else because she loved getting to know the families.

DSC_9989

We loved the messages in this centre, “Diversity is our strength” and the quote below.

DSC_9979

Resources will help these kids reach their potential. We certainly could see they are keen to learn and absorbed information and experiences like sponges.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Comparing pictures

We understand not everyone can travel to a remote community but the Indigenous Literacy Foundation do great work with getting books to the communities that need it. Donations can be made here.

Indigenous Literacy Day
A welcoming smile

I also urge you, if you travel to Uluru, to drop off some books or warm clothes to the Mutitjulu Foundation, which is at the Voyages Resort. The staff will make sure it gets to families who need it. If everyone visiting dropped off something, imagine how many lives could change over time.

The motto of the Mutitjuli Foundation is, “Considering the riches you take away, why not leave a little something behind.” I think that’s a powerful message.

And now for the awards-style thank you speech!

This experience wouldn’t have been possible without lots of support. So a big thank you to –

Jetstar for giving us additional baggage allowance.

Parragon Books for the amazing donation of books.

Fuji Australia for donating the Instax camera and enough film so we could leave plenty of photos with the kids.

AJ’s classmates for supporting this project.

Mandy from the Mutitjulu Foundation deserves a big warm hug and thanks for helping us to connect and understand more about Indigenous culture and for answering my never-ending questions. Thanks also to Mandy and the Darwin crew for organising our visit there. And thanks for letting us clean off our hire car with a rather powerful gurney – that red mud was packed on!

To both communities for welcoming our visit.

Indigenous Literacy Day
Artwork at one of the communities

 




16 thoughts on “INDIGENOUS LITERACY DAY – OUR EXPERIENCE VISITING A COMMUNITY”

  1. Fantastic Julie, what a heart warming post and how especially terrific to hear that BJ was treated just as anyone else would be. I’m sure other people will use this post to follow in your footsteps with a donation when they visit Uluru. Well done, will share on my FB too.

    Reply
    • Thanks Seana.

      I hoe it does encourage others to make a donation when they visit the resort because the resources can make the world of difference for the kids.

      Julie

      Reply
    • It was a fabulous experience and particularly moving because one of the little girls appeared to have cerebral palsy. She has so much spirit and determination I’m sure she will do well.

      Julie

      Reply
  2. What a lovely post! I love the photos of the kids connecting over the camera, and the one with the girl with the book tucked under her arm says everything. We all need books!

    Reply
  3. I loved everything about this experience, Julie. I grew up in the Territory and its riches will always be with me. It kills me that the kids don’t get a fair go. I’ve supported the Indigenous Literacy Foundation for a long time and hope to do my own visit one day. x

    Reply
  4. Wow Julie what an experience! Everything about this sounds amazing and so heart warming. It kills me to see that so many of the kids around our country don’t get the resources they need. Books are life! What a blessing to be able to not only provide for them but meet them, spend time with them and watch them glow from your generosity. Thank you sharing the great work the Indigenous Literacy Foundation does!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php