Gift treasured by keen little readers in remote community

BOOKS and toys we dropped off at the remote community of Aurukun were more than welcome, reported librarian Monica Haynes.

Constable James Hunter arranged for the donations from Maryborough to go through the right channels to lively Monica, the 27-year-old Indigenous Knowledge Centre Co-ordinator at Aurukun.

Monica was on leave when we visited. We were sorry to miss her: she was widely acclaimed for her enthusiasm.

That shone through when she contacted me to say thanks for the generosity of people who responded to my Facebook appeal.

"Donations of books and toys are always sought after. The Aurukun Indigenous Knowledge Centre is supported by the State Library of Queensland, which provides books on a quarterly exchange basis, so the shelves are constantly being updated.

"Aurukun kids are enthusiastic readers, and books and toys are so much loved that they sometimes get worn out ... so it's always a great help having extra donations that I can use for holiday activities, travelling reading circles, and for giveaway prizes after school, and via the Kids Club that the church runs."

Monica Haynes at Aurukun.
Monica Haynes at Aurukun.

Passion for literacy

IMPROVING literacy is one of Monica's focuses.

The extra books donated meant she could provide bulk loans to organisations within the community, so people who might not necessarily go to the IKC still had access to books.

That included the little kids at the daycare centre who were too young to go to the IKC by themselves and the old people at HACC who had mobility issues.

In the 18 months Monica worked at the IKC, numbers rose steadily from about five to 10 visitors a day to an average of more than 40.

"I've tried hard to make sure it's a welcoming, neutral space.

"I also run the community radio station as part of my job, so my time has to be divided between the radio and library. We have recently received some extra funding and have been able to create a radio trainee role, and are looking to do something similar for the library."

Before Aurukun, Monica worked north of Broome on humpback research with the Broome Community Whale Research Group. Before that she worked as a book editor in Melbourne. Now she is returning to city life in Brisbane but not without regrets.

"Aurukun has been, and continues to be, an amazing life experience. The community is very generous of spirit, and the place so steeped in culture and history; it really gets under your skin."

Nancy Bates, who is travelling with husband Tony in Isabel the Global Warrior, reports from the trail of the grey nomads. For more travel yarns, visit http://nancybates.weebly.com/off-with-isabel.html.