Creating a cultural connection

Co-founder and Chairperson of Books n Boots John Harding, member for Western Metropolitan Catherine Cumming and St. Johns Catholic Primary School students. (Damjan Janevski) 273774_01

By Molly Magennis

A not-for-profit organisation based in Maidstone which collects and re-distributes books to Indigenous children have teamed up with a local primary school to help students culturally engage with peers from across the country.

Established in 2015, Books n Boots Inc not only works to help close the literary gap in Indigenous children by providing communities with much needed books, but in doing so also redirects books away from landfill, helping to create a more sustainable future.

In total, Books n Boots have delivered 10,000 books and have saved over 8000 kilograms of books from landfill.

In 2021 the organisation received a major grant from Maribyrnong Council’s 2022 Community Grants Program to start the Kalbarr Project, which aims to connect primary schools in Maribyrnong to those in remote communities. The project has since been backed and supported by member for Western Metropolitan Catherine Cummings.

Co-founder and Chairperson of Books n Boots John Harding said the program is all about fostering a relationship between the two communities, and in doing so help educate children about Indigenous culture and raise awareness of the health and education gaps they face.

“It is an important project of reconciliation, as it will allow the opportunity for the two groups of students to actually speak to each other, and develop relationships between schools in this electorate, and remote and regional communities,” he said.

St. Johns Librarian and Family Engagement Coordinator Daniela Delucasaid the school saw this project as an exciting chance to get involved with something that aligned with their core values.

“This project provides the opportunity for children to connect across different settings and contexts, whilst building friendships through an authentic experience. It also provides children with the opportunity for cross-cultural connection and understanding, bringing to light our value of diversity,” she said.

Mr Harding said while St. John’s is the first school to jump onboard, he hopes it is one of many.

“The beauty of this project is that the students can discuss whatever they feel is important to impart and [share] between each other, that’s what self-determination means in practice. The cultural exchange could touch on a wide variety of topics, food, entertainment, favourite TV shows, or sports.”