Our River, by Leaum Henry Bloomfield
The river was the lifeblood of our town called Brewarrina. The Barwon Darling looked so beautiful in the flood time. The fish traps look so peaceful and lost when no water is running.
When I was a young fella we used to go swimming at the sandy bank and everywhere you look you see lots of young and old, fishing along both sides of the river banks.
When you sit and listen along at the weir, the sound of the water feels good, as the wind and the breeze flows through your body and the leaves. Birds of all kind sing in harmony with the water and the breeze.
If you really sit and pause for a while you can hear the old fellas rearranging the traps in the hot sun, and late in the evening, singing and dancing until the evening gets darker and darker.
It feels like the breeze is blowing in rhythm with the water. The trees are dancing with the water and the wind. The birds are singing as a backup group that sounds so sweet, as mother nature shows its glory.
As the fish swims with the twist of its tail, as the pelicans and the black shags move, like the dreamtime.
Leaum says he likes to read the newspaper every day but had never thought about putting pen to paper until the Literacy for Life Foundation came to Brewarrina, a small town in outback NSW where he lives.
“I was working for the dole, doing wood chipping and mowing, cleaning up vacant blocks,’ he told The Point.
Leaum says he signed up to the course mostly because he wanted to learn how to use a computer.
But he found it brought a lot more than that to his life.
“The program builds your confidence and your respect for yourself,” he says.
For his brother, it gave him the education he never had.
"It’s good to see my brother come every day. He didn't know how to read or write at all, only his name.”
They are two of 20 students ranging from 18-69 years old in Brewarrina who signed up for the ‘Yes I can’ course from Cuba and adopted by Australia's Literacy for Life Foundation.
‘Yes I can’ runs over six months including three months of basic literacy classes and three months of post-literacy classes that teach basic computer skills and how to administer first aid.
Hundreds of Indigenous adults in the outback NSW towns of Wilcannia, Bourke and Enngonia have already taken the course since it launched in Australia in 2012.
They are some of about 6 million people across 28 countries who have taken part in the learning initiative formulated over 50 years ago in Cuba, recognised by UNESCO in 2015 to have one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.7 percent.
Literacy for Life's executive director Jack Beetson says illiteracy rates in Indigenous communities in Australia are appalling, but it also affects a surprising amount of people across Australia.
“While in our communities it can be anywhere from 40-60 per cent of Aboriginal people that have low literacy levels, in the general population in Australia its 14 per cent,” he says.
“So it’s not just an issue that concerns Indigenous people in Australia, it belongs to everyone.”