A group of young Aboriginal women could be the future stars of the children’s book industry.
They were recently flown to Sydney from as far away as WA’s Goldfields region and the NT’s Tiwi Islands for a weeklong intensive workshop to hone their talents.
The program, designed to encourage those with gift for writing and illustration, was organised by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Tarlisha Currie travelled from Tjuntjuntjara, a remote Aboriginal community in WA’s Great Victoria Desert region, to sharpen her skills.
“I’ve learned so many things. I’ve met illustrators, and I’ve learned to design,” she told The Point.
“I had been hoping to come to Sydney, and meet people and learn new things. I’m so happy for that.”
Gregg Dreise, a children’s book author and illustrator, has introduced the program’s participants to publishers, book designers, and other authors, to help them get their start in publishing.
“Our greatest purpose is to take some kids form far remote Australia, and give them a real career aspiration that works towards their natural talents,” he said.
“I’m really excited to see their growth in confidence, knowledge and skills. At the start of the week they were a bit tentative, now they are happy to pick up a pencil and get into it.”
Flying the participants in from far corners of Australia is not a cheap – and the workshop would not have been possible without renowned children’s book illustrator, Pamela Lofts.
She lived in Alice Springs and died in 2012. A bequest from her estate funds programs to help young Indigenous people become published authors.
“Them being in a room with other kids like them, and looking at styles of working, I can see their brains tick away,” Tiwi Islands teacher Dianne Moore said.
“Hopefully this is a foot in the door for a career.”
The chance to meet Australia’s major publishers is something many aspiring writers seek to do, and it’s an opportunity the participants realise could benefit them in the future.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve realised how much doors are open for me – how much one little thing I do can be the biggest thing,” said Ruby Brooks from the Tiwi Islands.
The children’s book industry continues to prosper – in 2015 Australians spent almost $300 million on children’s books.
Belle Alderman, the director of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, believes workshops like these can have an impact on broader childhood literacy for other
“There is a link between wanting to read and seeing yourself in a book,” she said.
“It’s so important to be able to relate to a book, and if you’re not going to relate to it in some way, then the chances are you’re not going to want to read.”
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