By Emitis Morsali, Community Legal Centres Queensland Volunteer
Indigenous Literacy Day, which takes place annually on the first Wednesday in September, aims to raise awareness about the educational struggles faced by Australia’s First Nations communities. However, it is important to note that Indigenous Literacy Day is about more than just struggle. It is also a celebration of Indigenous culture, with an emphasis on the stories that make up this country’s rich heritage and history. So, as the event once again approaches, we must remind ourselves of its persisting significance.
Closing the gap in literacy between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities remains a pressing issue. The 2019 NAPLAN results showed that only 36 per cent of Indigenous Year 5 students in remote areas meet the national minimum reading standards, in contrast to 96 per cent of non-Indigenous students in major cities. Statistics also show that 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have minimal English literacy, with this figure increasing to 70 per cent in remote areas. A First Nations person is currently much more likely to be incarcerated than they are to finish secondary education. It can’t be denied that when it comes eliminating educational challenges for First Nations children, especially in remote areas, we still have a long way to go.
Indigenous Literacy Day is currently one of the most effective tools we have in battling these challenges. The event aims to get children interested in reading through a variety of story-telling sessions, narrated by various First Nations story tellers, of all ages, from across the country. The event not only promotes educational prosperity, but also strengthens the connection First Nations children have towards their culture and heritage.
The theme for this year’s Indigenous Literacy Day, on 1 September, is ‘Celebrating Stories and Language’. Some storytellers participating in this year’s event include pop superstar Jessica Mauboy, talented author and performer Gregg Dreise, and celebrated photographer Wayne Quilliam. We must all remember the significance of this day and do our part in ‘closing the gap’.