During this time, bilingual education programs were rolled out in remote schools throughout the Northern Territory, allowing schoolchildren to read and write in their native languages before transitioning to reading and writing in English.
Thousands of unique, entry-level children’s books, often based on local stories and illustrated by local artists, were created in Indigenous languages.
“Some were very simple and plain — just a line drawing with a couple of words,” linguist Cathy Bow said.
The colourful books now scattered throughout the Northern Territory are still deeply important, according to Ms Bow.
And as the project manager of the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, she has helped make 3,380 of them publicly available in an easy-to-use online archive.
Ms Bow and her team travelled to schools in locations as remote as Galiwin’ku, Barunga and Papunya to source the material.
A report that led to the establishment of the programs recommended “flooding the place with literature” — but the remains Ms Bow’s team have found might be better described as puddles.
If they have not been lost, damaged or destroyed already, the booklets are often collecting dust in long-forgotten school cupboards.
Read more: ABC