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Tiwi Islands girls write a book in a week at Indigenous Literacy Foundation's Create Initiative

Callan Morse -

Eight Indigenous girls from the Tiwi Islands have written a picture book in just one week after visiting Sydney to participate in the Indigenous Literacy Foundation's Create Initiative.

The 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).

After participating in the intensive five-day workshop, the girls wrote, illustrated and published the book called Tiwi Girl Hunters, a story about two best friends going hunting together, in just a week.

Aged 15 to 17, the girls are students at Tiwi College, a residential school located on Melville Island located north of Darwin.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation's (ILF) CEO Ben Bowen highlighted the importance of the partnership to support Indigenous students to tell their own stories.

Tiwi Girl Hunters is the ninth book produced through the ILF's Create Initiative. (Image: supplied, Indigenous Literacy Foundation)

"The Create Program celebrates a core principle of the ILF, centring culture and Community to tell their stories in their words," Mr Bowen said.

ILF's Create 2023, supported by Australia Post and Publishing Partner Hachette Australia, enabled 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.

"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," Mr Bowen said.

The Create Initiative has a seen the publication of seven books with the eighth text, Tiwi Seasons with Marius, set to be published later this month.

Tiwi Girl Hunters will be the ninth book launched through the initiative, which may become available commercially at a later date.

Students worked with various mentors during the Create Initiative project. (Image: supplied, Indigenous Literacy Foundation)

Following the workshop, the girls participated in a small launch in Sydney to celebrate, signed copies and take copies of the book home to show their family and friends in their community.

ILF ambassador, David Lawrence, said the ideas of the young, Indigenous authors are authentically presented in the text.

"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," Mr Lawrence said.

"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."

Hatchette Australia's group publishing director, Fiona Hazard, said the organisation was proud to partner with ILF on the Create Initiative project.

Copies of Tiwi Girl Hunters will be available for community members of Melville Island. (Image: Indigenous Literacy Foundation)

"After hosting the ILF Create Initiative program in 2015 we are delighted to be their publishing partner again in 2023," Ms Hazard said.

"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."

Australia Post's EGM community, sustainability and stakeholder engagement, Tanny Margos, said the Create Initiative Project aligns closely with Australia Post's values.

"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," Ms Margos said.

"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."

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