The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is a national charity that works, through the support of the community, to provide reading and literacy opportunities for children and families in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Their goals are to provide 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.

Just Write For Kids Australia is proud to support The ILF in their remarkable work with these Communities by raising donations through book sales of our own community project, Our Australian HeART. See our fundraising page and read about why we’re supporting this charity here.

Today, we’re honoured to learn more about the fantastic and inspiring rewards of facilitating writing workshops with students from the remote Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory. With huge thanks to ILF Ambassador, award-winning author David Lawrence for the amazing work you do to provide invaluable opportunities for these kids, and for being here to provide further insights into how you, and the ILF team, make such a huge ongoing difference. 🙂

About David Lawrence

David Lawrence is an award‑winning children’s author whose Fox Swift series, co‑written with Cyril Rioli led to a life‑changing trip to the Tiwi Islands. With Shelley Ware he co‑facilitated the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022 ILF Create Initiative writing workshops, that produced the wonderful Japarrika trilogy and Tiwi Seasons with Marius. Through the ILF he has seen first‑hand how reading opens doors. 

David went from profit and loss statements to TV writing, before penning Anna Flowers with Australian Netballer Eloise Southby in 2007.

Since then, he’s written another twelve fun-filled children’s books, including The Stormy Protest that won the Environmental Award for Children’s Literature in 2019.

His latest series (that kicked off with Ruby and the Pen and Xander and the Pen) is about a magical pen that falls into the hands of kids who are struggling. They soon discover that whatever they draw … happens!

Visit David Lawrence at his Laughing Matters websiteLaughing Matters, and on Facebook and Instagram.

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I met Bella on my first ever Create program back in 2017. 

The ILF had asked the wonderful Shelley Ware (We are Matildas) and me to mentor Bella and 10 other female students from Tiwi College. All we had to do was help them write, illustrate and then launch a printed chapter book … in five days! (Insert horror look emoji!)   

The girls flew down from the sunny Tiwi Islands to Melbourne where it was … freezing! 

I remember Bella and her friends huddling quietly in the PenguinRandomHouse boardroom on the Monday morning. At the front of the room was a completely blank piece of butcher’s paper blue-tacked to the whiteboard. I looked over at Shelley and we both took a deep breath; we had no idea what was about to happen. 

We needn’t have worried. 

The girls worked incredibly hard, combining brilliantly to develop some highly entertaining characters, plot lines and illustrations to create a beautiful book called Japarrika – which is a Tiwi word meaning ‘Storm Bird’. 

Bella was the youngest in that group. She was shy but conscientious and we watched her writing skills blossom over the first three days. The next year she flew down to the slightly warmer city of Sydney with another group of Tiwi College students to write a follow up book called Japarrika Rises. This time Bella made more suggestions and was far more comfortable sharing her ideas with the rest of the group. 

These first two books were very successful, and Bella came back to Sydney the following year to help write the final book of the trilogy, Ngiya Yintaga Japparika (I am Japarrika.) She was now one of the eldest in the group and a wonderful leader. Not only did she make a great contribution to the content of the book, she also encouraged her fellow students to stay focussed when they were tiring near the end of a long day. 

On this third trip we visited the amazing Kinokunya bookstore and I’ll never forget the look of pride on Bella’s face when she discovered the first two books of the Japarrika series on the bookshelf. 


Bella now works for the ILF as a Regional Co-Ordinator. 

In this capacity she’s been on the last two Create programs and her presence is invaluable because all the students know her and look up to her. To have watched her go through the program as a student and now help run it is very special. 

The ILF’s motto is: Reading Opens Doors. Reading opened doors for Bella, and now she’s helping open doors for others. 

Article by David Lawrence, ILF Ambassador

Click the link for more information about The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

#indigenousliteracyfoundation #readingopensdoors #japarrika #literacy #childrensbooks

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