When compared with mainstream Australia, many aboriginal and Torres Straight Island communities are very remote and often have limited access to services, opportunities, and facilities considered standard for much of the country. These two groups represent 2.5% of the population, and have historically been targeted by discrimination and attempts to assimilate the groups into mainstream culture. These interferences have not benefited the populations: 30% of Aboriginal adults lack basic literacy skills, and in 2009, the gap in the unemployment rate between aboriginal and non-aboriginals in Australia was 12.6%.
Furthermore, the groups are facing a threat of losing cultural diversity. Only 60 of the once 250 plus linguistic traditions remain alive today. In order to have a positive impact on these groups, a full understanding of their culture, history, and local governance is essential. Taking this into consideration, state libraries have developed community programs that work directly to meet these groups’ needs, but the various models have not been shared between states and lack a medium for reaching a greater number of communities. The ability to share successes and failures is crucial, especially as more libraries across the country begin programs to help the aborigines and Torres Straight Island populations.
In 2015, Libraries Without Borders began a partnership with three state libraries (Queensland, Western Australia, and Southern Australia) to improve access to information, culture, and education for isolated populations. The program has three stages in each state.
First, a preliminary consultation will ensure sustainable projects are embedded in the community. Communities who have expressed a strong interest in the program will work with LWB to create an implementation strategy, activities, and determine the contents that will be included in the Ideas Box.
Second, a determined number of communities will receive and facilitate the Ideas Box. The activities will be run in a partnership between Ideas Box managers and community members to best suit their specific needs.
Lastly, a full evaluation will be undertaken so future utilization of the Box will be as efficient as possible. The purpose of this preliminary run is to generate interest in other states and create the capacity for local communities to support an Ideas Box by having enough trained facilitators and public space to implement the tool.
With this approach, the tool will be put in place through a program facilitating the ability to expand and be used more diversely throughout the country.