Celebrating First Nations Languages this Indigenous Literacy Day

Wednesday 7 September is Indigenous Literacy Day – a national day to raise awareness and funds to support literacy in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. It aims to improve access to educational resources for these communities, as well as create greater opportunity for First Nations voices in publishing.

Lead by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), it is also a chance to celebrate the revitalisation and preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, now and for the future generations of Indigenous children.

This year’s theme is “A celebration of the diversity of First Nations Peoples’ Stories, Cultures and Languages”. 

Celebrating diversity and nurturing the continuation of culture is intrinsic to Queensland Museum Network’s core values. We strive to ensure our museums are a place for people to learn and connect – with stories, objects, people, and ways of life.

In celebration of Indigenous Literacy Day, we’ve compiled a list of ways that you can engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages through our museums all year-round.

Incorporating language in our collection and exhibitions

Language helps us broaden our understanding of the world, including our understanding of First Nations cultures, and the connection between Country and cultural objects.

Queensland Museum Network’s five campus locations recognise the languages of almost ten Nations, and our exhibitions have the potential to share stories from hundreds more.

By working firsthand with community members, and discussing the correct use of language, we are trying to reconnect formerly disassociated names with the items they belong to.

In Connections Across the Coral Sea, now open at South Bank, we use traditional object and community names wherever possible, prioritising traditional language over English translations.

By visiting the exhibition, you can learn how objects were made and used from the perspective of Traditional Owners, gaining an understanding of Indigenous practices and language, while giving voice back to First Nations people.

Workshops and storytelling at the museum

Throughout the year, we offer a range of free public events to learn about Indigenous culture from First Nations presenters.

Paul Burragun, or Uncle Boomerang, is a descendant of the Birrunburra Bundajalung Yagambeh Yuggera Turrbal people. When Uncle Boomerang visits the museum, children and their parents can broaden their understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture and language through his storytelling, singing, artwork and games.

We also host First Nations Storytellers, who will take you on a journey through over 65,000 years of history. These sessions are a great interactive way to learn more about Aboriginal language and celebrate the preservation of the world’s oldest culture.

These sessions are announced regularly throughout the year. Keep an eye on our website and social media channels for upcoming dates.

Fostering a love of reading through representation

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation works to engage more young children with reading. This is reliant on greater representation of First Nations voices, stories and characters in children’s books. Integrating language into storytelling and creating bilingual resources can enhance each child’s language and literacy education.

The Queensland Museum Shop stocks a range of First Nations children’s books that tell the stories and adventures of Indigenous children and culture. Often also incorporating traditional language, these books are excellent resources for introducing kids to First Nations history.

Why not pick up a book the next time you visit the museum? You may just learn some new language!

A selection of children’s books on sale in the Queensland Museum Shop, including signed copies of ‘Ceremony’ by Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing.

Exploring our First Nations collections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

The museum is home to thousands of collection items that tell stories of early interactions. In the digital age, we can now extend our resources and knowledge beyond the museum walls through online education.

Queensland Museum’s Senior Curator of First Nations Cultures and Indigenous Literacy Foundation board member, Leitha Assan, recently presented a virtual session about message sticks to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from 16 state high schools across Queensland.

Leitha delivering the virtual session to students.

The students are part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aspirations Program (ATSIAP), an initiative for high performing students to develop STEM capabilities.

Following the workshop, students made their own message sticks and were eager to continue developing their understanding of this ancient form of communication. Embedding Indigenous perspectives throughout the program is a priority for the ATSIAP project team and we are delighted that Leitha could be involved.

Celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day on Wednesday 7 September

This Indigenous Literacy Day, we’re celebrating with our staff at the museum through a fundraising morning tea. You can support the Foundation by donating on their website or help raise funds through your own community event.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is also hosting a free, online National Digital Event, Celebrating Stories, Cultures and Languages. Register and learn more about the foundation through their website.