2021 Indigenous Literacy Day

Wednesday 1 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! Audiences can select from over 50 inspiring, short video stories by storytellers including Jessica Mauboy, Gregg Dreise, Wayne Quilliam, Archie Roach, Anita Heiss, four young, newly published graphic novelists plus stories and animations from children and Elders from remote communities and organisations such as SharingStories Foundation, SNAICC, First Languages Australia and many more. 

Indigenous Literacy Day 2021 Poster.

Celebrating Stories and Language is the theme for the 2021 Indigenous Literacy Day, a highlight being a free virtual event for all Australians going live from 9am Wednesday 1 September at ild.org.au.

Schools and community groups can register on the website to access a series of programs for the day:

  • Celebrating Stories and Language - this is the main program showcasing some of the ILD Ambassadors and their work.
  • School or Education - this part of the program is for primary schools and early learners, (4-11), teachers and parents can register for a special, free 25-minute pre-recorded event presented by dynamic performer and author Gregg Dreise, with a special guest appearance by Australia’s favourite pop singer Jessica Mauboy.  
  • Learning Workshops - to celebrate ILD, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation has invited seven highly talented individuals including some of our Ambassadors and ILF supporters to create a unique learning workshop. 

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 - 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!  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:

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 400 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 Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories Live!


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 2021 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.



Indigenous Literacy Foundation website

Indigenous Literacy Day 2021 webpage


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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