By Brittany Butler and Alana Riley
Imagine trying to get through life without the ability to read this very sentence.
This is a reality for a large population of the Australian Indigenous community, where everyday tasks become a constant battle.
National testing shows a massive discrepancy between the literacy skills of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Only 23 per cent of Year 3 Indigenous students in very remote areas of the Northern Territory reach the national minimum standard for reading, with Indigenous students from Australia’s other states averaging just 45.3 per cent, according to 2018 NAPLAN results.
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) works with a goal of making sure that every Australian child, no matter how remote their home, has easy access to quality and culturally appropriate books. QUT Enactus’ brain-child, Best Foot Forward is a sustainable fashion label that keeps this goal at its heart.
The brand sells sustainable accessories designed by local Indigenous artists, giving them a platform to share their stories of the Dreamtime. The proceeds from every sock, pocket square and scarf go straight to the ILF and help to improve literacy rates of Indigenous Australians in remote communities.
QUT Business student and project manager Jacqui Hayes says the group of students behind project are committed to making meaningful differences to the community. She says the social enterprise is “entrepreneurship with a purpose”.
“For Best Foot Forward, our purpose is helping improve the literacy rates of Indigenous Australians,” Ms Hayes said.
“Only 34 per cent of Indigenous Year 5 students in remote communities are above national minimum reading standards, compared to 95 per cent non-Indigenous students in major cities.”
Each bold piece is designed with original commissioned work from local Indigenous artists and Ms Hayes said that “by wearing these accessories, we can ignite pride in our Indigenous culture and help share in our nation’s rich history.”
The socks, pocket squares and scarves are made from 100% Australian-made bamboo cotton and the brand are looking into more sustainable packaging to reduce their carbon footprint. “We’d love to see Best Foot Forward appear in physical stores. Having local stockists would give our artists additional avenues to share their work. It gives us a wider audience to join in our story,” Ms Hayes said.
Best Foot Forward are looking to connect with up-and-coming Indigenous artists to give the products (and customers) more diversity. Ms Hayes said while there is a long way to go, the group is committed to helping bridge the literacy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.