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Australia's politicians unite to help end Indigenous disadvantage.

Faustina Agolley

By FAUSTINA AGOLLEY

It was a perfect day, not so long ago – I was reading to my three-year-old niece Ella. My brother had insisted I read her “My Dad Loves Me!” by Marianne Richmond. As I read, Ella would chime in at the top of her lungs to complete each sentence. We read two more books before lights were out and that’s when my thoughts of gratitude surfaced.

Every day, whether it’s on a drive to an appointment or before I go to sleep, I find the time to go through a mental list of things that I’m grateful for. It’s a regular habit to keep myself in check and to keep the optimism brewing, even on the not so great days (thankfully, those don’t happen too often).

Like many kids her age, Ella is fortunate enough to grow up in a family and community who can teach her the skills she needs for a bright future. In the next two years I know she’ll start telling me what she wants to be when she’s older. And within the next decade she will have mastered the ability to read and write.

Having migrated to Australia from England at an early age following my father’s passing, my mother set out to give my brother and I the best opportunities possible. She was determined that we had two things above all else: a roof over our heads and a good education.

My mother’s determination paid off. My brother is now a surgeon, and I completed my degrees in the same year as landing a full time job with Network 10. I am reminded everyday that it is the basic skills of reading and writing that spring-boarded us there, and I’m grateful for my mother’s hard work and sacrifice in making sure we had these skills.

It’s sometimes easy for people to forget that once we can read and write our quality of life is instantly better. We can succeed at school, fill out job applications, learn how to drive, read the labelling on medicine, read for knowledge and for joy.

In our own country, in very remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, only one in five kids can read at the minimum standard (according to Naplan tests). I learned this shocking fact three years ago when I was first looking to support an education-based charity. A friend led me to the work of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) and I have been a passionate supporter since that day.

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ALNF’s new initiative to support Indigenous children

On the very day that I discovered only one in five children in remote Indigenous communities could read at the minimum standard a number of things came to mind: why hadn’t I heard of the ALNF before? How effective are their programs in remote Indigenous communities? How do they allocate their funds?

The reason why I hadn’t heard of the ALNF up to that point was due to the fact that they’d rather use their dollars in community than buying ad space in the shiny commercial world I work in. It’s the grass roots level of detail that goes into their work that’s so impressive.

And in the past year or so if you have seen any ads, all that space is generously donated by The Outdoor Media Association.

This year the ALNF’s Wall of Hands campaign is looking to raise $400K for a new literacy program to support the 463 kids of Groote Eylandt. This will join the current award-winning ALNF programs that are in effect in other parts of regional Australia.

And as my gratitude for my family’s good standing continues to grow and the life of my niece continues to prosper I again ask, why not give a hand to help other Australians to have access to the same skills that this country has given me?

To find out more about the campaign and how you can join me in supporting this amazing organisation please visit www.wallofhands.com.au

Faustina (with both hands raised!)

The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) is Australia’s first charity dedicated to raising national language, literacy and numeracy standards. ALNF funds and delivers specialised literacy programs throughout Australia.

 Wall of Hands is an annual fundraising appeal supporting ALNF’s Indigenous literacy programs. In 2012 alone, over 1300 children & young people received literacy support through ALNF’s programs.

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