The Northern Territory Library has won the annual Access to Learning Award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its work to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. The US$1 Million award recognizes innovative efforts outside the United States to connect disadvantaged people and remote communities to information through free access to computers and the Internet.
The Northern Territory Library (NTL), which covers a network of 33 public libraries, many of them in remote communities, is offering free training and access to computers and the Internet. These skills and tools are providing indigenous people with a new way to connect to the past—and to engage in the present. In 2004, the NTL launched a new program that has transformed 13 branch libraries into vibrant community centres for sharing knowledge. Through this model, known as the Libraries and Knowledge Centers program, NTL has trained and equipped local library staff to help indigenous people build digital archives of their culture. With cameras and computers, voice and video recorders, and scanners and printers, community members capture old and contemporary art, maps, songs, photos, and lessons in their local language. They film events and record interviews and traditional practices. Then they store the digital content with user-friendly software called Our Story.
Communities have embraced Our Story, collecting more than 40,000 items since 2004. NTL will use the US$1 million Access to Learning Award to take Our Story into more communities and to train more community library staff. It also will expand its early years literacy program for indigenous children, to better prepare them for success in school. Other plans include sharing appropriate cultural material from Our Story with a wider Australian audience.
Aug. 30, 2007
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