> Skip to content

Article  •  31 August 2020


How I’m celebrating Indigenous Literacy Day in 2020

Commissioning Editor for Young Readers, Jess Owen, speaks about her experience working with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

This week there’s a special event that is one of my favourite days on the publishing calendar – Indigenous Literacy Day hosted by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. This Wednesday’s online celebration will be quite different to the previous events held at the Sydney Opera House that I’ve volunteered at or attended as a guest, but 2020 has been a different year.

What is most exciting for me though is that this week I'm also working on the final touches of the illustrated fiction book Ngiya Yintanga Japarrika by Tiwi College Alalinguwi Jarrakarlinga before we send the files to print. Preparing this book to be released to the public is the best way I can think of to champion Indigenous voices and showcase the benefits of funding to programs run by the ILF.

The book tells the inspiring story of a young Tiwi woman’s journey to greatness in the AFLW and was originally produced as part of the ILF Create Initiative. In October 2019, ten young Indigenous women from Tiwi College visited Sydney where, together with Penguin Random House staff and two mentors – David Lawrence and Shelley Ware – they created the book in five days.

Anyone who has been a part of publishing, either as a creator or working for a publishing house, knows that it usually takes much, much longer than five days to create a book, so it was amazing for high school students to tackle this challenge. Working with the Tiwi College girls for that week back in 2019 and seeing them brainstorm ideas, plot out narrative chapters, write each chapter, illustrate line drawings for the book, edit and create the back-cover blurb was a phenomenal experience. My job as an editor is to help people to tell their stories, but these girls didn’t need a huge amount of guidance. They knew the best name to give the evil aunt in the story, Pwamika – meaning death adder in Tiwi, how to showcase their favourite bush tucker and they knew exactly how to articulate the experience of being away from family and Country when travelling to a big city for a new opportunity.

Many of these girls had been part of the creative team who produced the first two books in this series, Japarrika and Japarrika Rises, so the other thing that became apparent as we worked through these projects was how the girls’ confidence in their ideas and writing progressed over time. They were thrilled to be contributing to a book that they could then take back to their school, friends and family, sharing their love of books with their community. And it must be a special feeling for these girls to know that their book about a local Tiwi girl just like them will be shared with the rest of Australia on 3 November this year.

So as I watch the ILD celebrations on Wednesday via YouTube, I’ll also be thinking about what Indigenous books and creators we can champion next, because those are the stories that are at the core of ILD and producing stories that reflect the diversity of Australia will help create readers in every community.

Jess Owen at the Sydney Opera House, Indigenous Literacy Day 2019


Click on the image below to watch the Indigneous Literacy Day celebration 2020 on YouTube:

Featured Titles

Japarrika Rises
From the creators of Japarrika comes a new inspiring story of a young Tiwi woman’s journey to greatness. Penguin Random House will donate all profits from the sale of this book to Tiwi College and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Read more
A powerful story about finding the courage to believe in yourself, written by senior students of Tiwi College in collaboration with David Lawrence and Shelley Ware. Penguin Random House will donate all profits from the sale of this book to Tiwi College and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Read more
Ngiya Yintanga Japarrika
From the creators of Japarrika and Japarrika Rises comes a new inspiring story of a young Tiwi woman’s journey to greatness.
Read more

More features

See all
7 locations from Sixty-Seven Days readers can visit in real life

These 7 real locations from Sixty-Seven Days are the perfect places to visit while reading the book. Immerse yourself in this romantic drama by exploring the same places the characters visit in the novel.

Penguin Random House ANZ donated $100,000 to Indigenous Literacy Foundation in 2022

In a longstanding relationship with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Penguin Random House is proud to contribute $100,000 to support literacy programs in remote Communities across Australia.

What readers are saying about $10 Meals with Chelsea

Chelsea Goodwin, the creator behind the $10 Meals Australia Facebook group, has released a cookbook full of incredible budget eats. See what readers are saying!

QUIZ: Which YA fantasy should you read next

Take this fun quiz to figure out which fantasy book you should reach for next.

Maxine Fawcett on the myth of the ‘perfect mother’

Ahead of Mother’s Day, author of Everything is Perfect, Maxine Fawcett, shares how she has come to embrace the imperfections of motherhood.

10 things you didn’t know about electricity

Check out 10 fun electricity facts from Lee Constable’s new book.

Everything you need to know about hockey romance books

What is hockey romance? Why is BookTok obsessed? Check out this article for everything you need to know.

Better Reading’s Top 100 books of 2024 announced

Penguin Random House is proud to have twenty-four titles on the list this year.

Penguin Noir is back with two events in 2024

Learn about two exciting Penguin Random House author showcases this August!

Mini-me reads for mums and kids this Mother’s Day

Read by example this Mother’s Day with these book duos, perfect for mums and their children.

Books recommended by Marian Keyes

If you love Marian Keyes, you might also enjoy these books. See the titles she’s praised publicly and get ready to add them to your ‘must read’ list.

A guide to Marian Keyes

Want to read Marian Keyes’s books but aren’t sure where to start? Check out this run-down on the bestselling author and her many wonderful works.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles