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First Nations students create a book in a week

[supplied by Jackie Evans]


Tiwi College students from Melville Island. Image: supplied

Eight First Nations girls from the Tiwi islands have travelled to Sydney to take part in the Create Initiative, an intensive five-day workshop with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) where they will write, illustrate and publish a book in a week.

The girls, aged 15 to 17, are students at Tiwi College, a residential school located on Melville Island off the coast of the Northern Territory.

ILF’s Create 2023, supported by Proud Partner Australia Post and Publishing Partner Hachette Australia, enables the young students to travel to Sydney to experience working with a publisher and mentors, that see them write and share their own stories and leave as published authors.

ILF CEO Ben Bowen recognises the importance of this partnership in supporting the students to tell their own stories.

“The Create Program celebrates a core principle of the ILF, centring culture and Community to tell their stories in their words. The young mob from Tiwi are talented storytellers and through the support of ILF mentors Shelley Ware and David Lawrence, Australia Post and Hachette Australia, these young people will become published authors further changing the narrative from a deficit in literacy to one of strength, resilience and with doors open to opportunities,” said Ben Bowen.

ILF Ambassador David Lawrence said: “One thing that's really important about these stories is it’s from the girls’ perspective, it’s their ideas, their words that are in the book. We want them to tell their story so that kids from remote Communities can read this book in years to come and can really relate to it and get excited about reading.”

Tanny Mangos, EGM Community, Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement, Australia Post said: "The ILF’s CREATE Program supports Australia Post’s Reconciliation Action Plan commitment to celebrate and raise awareness of the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages. In addition to this program, Australia Post is proud to be supporting a further CREATE program later this year for students from the Eastern Arnhem Region Community of Yirrkala.

“Together with the team at ILF, Australia Post will continue to support remote First Nations Communities to share their own stories and languages, and to deliver culturally appropriate books to children in these Communities.”

Seven books have come out of the Create Initiative to date and an eighth book Tiwi Seasons with Marius is due to be published on 28 November. The 2023 Create Initiative will see the ninth book to come out of the program.

Fiona Hazard, Group Publishing Director, Hachette Australia said: “After hosting the ILF Create Initiative program in 2015 we are delighted to be their publishing partner again in 2023. Working closely with the students from Tiwi College, Head of Children’s Jeanmarie Morosin, Senior Editor Chrysoula Aiello and Production & Audio Manager Isabel Staas enjoyed supporting them alongside mentors David Lawrence and Shelley Ware to create an exciting book across the week-long program.”

The ILF Create Initiative partners young Indigenous women at Tiwi College with publishers and mentors to create (produce stories), cultivate (build knowledge) and motivate (grow self-esteem).

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation  (ILF) is a national charity of the Australian Book Industry, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote Communities across Australia. They are Community-led, responding to requests from remote Communities for culturally relevant books, including early learning board books, resources, and programs to support Communities to create and publish their stories in languages of their choice. For more information, please visit



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