Four schoolchildren from the Tiwi Islands shared a book they wrote, No Way Yirrikipayi!, on Wednesday at Sydney’s Opera House for Indigenous Literacy Day, an event organised by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Twelve-year-old Margaurita from Milikapiti School, Tiwi Islands, who co-wrote the book, said the experience was a great opportunity. "We feel happy to share our story about animals found on Melville Island," she said.
Co-author Michaeline, 12, added she was thrilled to produce their story: "We are proud and excited to have our book published," she said.
Their book is a rhyming tale about a hungry crocodile who has a hard time looking for his next meal: dugongs, turtles and stingrays. The young authors were assisted in the book's creation by Indigenous Literacy Day ambassador, author Alison Lester.
"We are proud and excited to have our book published"
This year, pop diva Jessica Mauboy joined the cause's ambassadors, including Andy Griffiths and NITV News presenter Natalie Ahmat.
Ms Mauboy said the work of the foundation was "absolutely important".
"I feel so proud to be involved with such a solid foundation," she told media at the event. "Making opportunities for the community and for the kids, the Tiwi college students, seeing their books come to life.
"This is life changing, this is so educational for them, and now they have pathways and to see their book come to life."
The event is held each year to grow awareness about the challenges that Indigenous communities face when acquiring basic literacy skills, and raise funds to provide educational resources for children living in remote Indigenous communities across Australia.
"This is life changing, this is so educational for them, and now they have pathways and to see their book come to life"
Indigenous Literacy Foundation program manager Tina Raye said the day was a great experience for the young storytellers.
"For all of these students, it's their first time in Sydney and for one of them, her first time on a commercial plane," Ms Raye said. "It's an opportunity for these students to see the importance of literacy and possibilities these skills can lead to."
The foundation focuses on creating books in language and has funded the translations of Books 1–3 of The Honey Ant Readers series into six first languages in the Central Australian region.
"It's an opportunity for these students to see the importance of literacy and possibilities these skills can lead to."
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Early Childhood Education Leslie Williams encouraged communities to participate in Indigenous Literacy Day.
"Fostering curiosity and instilling a love of learning in young people is one of the most important things that we can do as parents, carers or educators," Mrs Williams said in a press release.
"As a former teacher, I know the difference that a passion for reading can make to a child’s success at school and I have seen the critical role parents play in encouraging an interest in books."
A 2013-2014 report by the NSW Department of Education showed an increase in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students achieving at or above the national minimum standards in Year 3, 5 and 7 in reading, writing and numeracy
The 2015 report of the federal government's Close the Gap program, which attempts to break down the disparity in equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, shows that school attendance rates reached as low as 14 percent in some remote areas of the country.
"...There is an approximate 2.5 years gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous literacy rates in Australia..."
Targets not on track include the effort to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy capabilities of Indigenous children by 2018.
There was no significant improvement in reading and numeracy has shown no statistically significant improvement for the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at or above the minimum national standards between 2008-2014.
There is an approximate 2.5 years gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous literacy rates in Australia, according to the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment from the Australia Council for Educational Research.