2020 Indigenous Literacy Day

Wednesday 2 September is Indigenous Literacy Day which is focussed on improving literacy levels in very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The day is a National celebration that raises awareness as well as funds to improve English literacy levels in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In previous years, the day has been marked by a showcase event hosted by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) with libraries, schools and community groups encouraged to host their own local events.

This year with COVID-19 restrictions the day has moved towards a virtual event which will be a celebration of language and literacy with some very important guests! Children from Jilkminggan, Bidyadanga, Milikapiti and Pirlangimpi remote communities will join ILF Ambassadors at 12.30pm on Wednesday 2 September. 

Indigenous Literacy Day 2020 Poster.

The 45-minute celebratory event will be a YouTube Premiere sharing stories and the value of language.  This theme of language and storytelling is central to many of the Indigenous Literacy community projects and has seen the creation of 90 community books in 18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

Selection of community books created by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The image above depicts a selection of the community books created by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. The ILD website also lists ways that communities across Australia can be involved on the day as well as support the ongoing community work of ILF.

For example,the website suggests that if you are a school, bookseller, publisher, library, business, organisation or individual, you can also contribute and celebrate this day by:

The Great Book Swap is one of the key fundraising events for schools and libraries; the ILF webpages has an alternative fundraising event to manage COVID-19 restrictions. Groups are assigned to a language 'House' upon registration, named after five different animals in Aboriginal languages. Participants will have exclusive access to a host of fantastic language-themed resources including teachers' notes, fact sheets, maps, videos and books written by children in your House's language.

Tharnggan - a Guugu Yimidhirr story by Irene Hammett.

Tharnggan above is a great example of a community story which features language, in this case Guugu Yimidhirr from Hope Vale and Cooktown region. Irene Hammett is the author of the book which also features artwork by Donna Cobus, Irene's daughter! The State Library through the Indigenous Knowledge Centre (IKC) network and the Indigenous Languages Project has also supported the development of community language books; many of which were showcased in the recent Jarjum Stories exhibition as well as Jarjum Stories Live!

Jingeri Jingeri - a very cheeky bird.

State Library collections also hold a great range of books and stories which feature language and encourage school-communities to read these and incorporate the texts into school curriculum, not just for Indigenous Literacy Day but across the whole year! 

There is an "Indigenous Literature" tag which identifies over 350 books written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors ranging from pre-school to young adult; many of these include language and a selection is listed below in the further reading section.

A very cheeky bird: the making of Jingeri Jingeri digital story.

State Library produced the above digital story A very cheeky bird: the making of Jingeri Jingeri which goes behind the scenes of how Tamborine Mountain State School with help from Gregg Dreise and Yugambeh Museum produced their storybook - it may give you and your school-community some ideas!


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map


Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition

Spoken Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories exhibition

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?


Aileen Moreton-Robinson: 20th Anniversary of Talkin’ Up to the White Woman

On Indigenous Literacy Day join State Library online for the 20th anniversary of Talkin’ Up to the White Woman with author Aileen Moreton-Robinson; the event commences at 6:15pm on Wednesday 2 September. Register for this event here.


Additional material for this blog post was drawn from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website



Cover image: Tamborine Mountain State School students in front of the Jinger Jingeri section of Jarjum Stories.

Indigenous Literacy Day 2020 Poster. Image sourced from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website

Indigenous Literacy Foundation Community Books. Image sourced from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website

Tharnggan by Irene Hammett JUV 499.15 HAM

Jingeri Jingeri section of Jarjum Stories exhibition.


References and Further Reading

The following is a selection of children's books from the State Library's collections that feature Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Bowen, L. and Calley, K. (2016) Gudaa bula dyugi-dyugi = The dog and the chookJUV 499.15 BOW

Cape Treasures: Children from Cape York Share Stories.

Cherbourg State School (2009) Budburra's alphabet. JUV A823.4 BUD

Crombie, J. and Barr-Crombie, J. (2014) Children's Talking Book JUV 499.15 CRO

Crombie, J. and Barr-Crombie, J. (2018) Looking for Tucker . JUV 499.15 CRO

Dreise, G. (2014) Silly BirdsJUV A823.4 DRE

Dreise, G. (2019) My culture and me. JUV A823.4 DRE

Erbacher, J. and S. (1998) Jarruka the scrub hen. JUVQ 641.391 ERB

Gordon, T. and Haviland, J. (1980) Milbi: Aboriginal tales from Queensland’s Endeavour RiverJUVQ 398.20994 GOR

Hammett, I. (2013) Tharnggan. Illustrated by Donna Cobus. JUV 499.15 HAM

Hammett, I. (2014) Bidhagurr Wuurili Bunhdhiwi. Illustrated by Donna Cobus. JUV 499.15 HAM

Hill, C. and Thompson, D. (2012) Lockhart River language readers Umpila and Kuuku Ya'u languages. HKT 418 HIL

Jack, P. (2014) Turtle and wallaby : Barun ban Garnjin. Told by Phil Jack; illustrated by Year 2 students at Mornington Island State School. JUV 299.9215 JAC

Jarl, M. (2014) The legends of Moonie Jarl. Retold by Moonie Jarl (Wilf Reeves) ; illustrated by Wandi (Olga Miller). J 398.2 MOO  

Kennedy, V. (2017) Amra Niighi Laenae : the boys go walkabout. JUV499.15 KEN

Korkaktain, V. (2008) Minh Nga’an Wichan = Catching fish told & illustrated by Venita Korkaktain. JUV A823.4 KOR

Lawrie, M. (1970) Myths and legends of Torres StraitQ 398.2099438 MYT

McRobbie, N. (1996) Who's that Jumbun in the log?  JUVQ A823.3 M'RO 

Mirndiyan Gununa Aboriginal Corporation (2014) Two boys and two devils : a traditional Yangkaal story from Forsyth Island. Illustrated by Year 3 students at Mornington Island State School.  JUV 299.9215 TWO

Mirndiyan Gununa Aboriginal Corporation (2014) Seagull and Crane : a traditional Lardil story. Illustrated by Year 4 students at Mornington Island State School. JUV 299.9215 SEA 

Nalingu Aboriginal Corporation (1994) The Tiger Snake (and other stories). JUV 499.15 TIG

Omeenyo, G. (1987) The crocodileJUV A823.3 ome 

Santo, W. & Nancarrow, C. (2006) Gudjal book of animalsJUV 499.15 SAN

Walker, D. and Griffiths, L. (2011) Island treasures : Torres Strait children share stories. Collected by Dot Walker and Lynnette Griffiths for the State Library of Queensland. JUV A828.4 ISL


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