Bequest yields first book and ‘a true message to Australia’



Above: Yirara College students with mentor Ali Cobby-Eckermann, from left: Melton Armstrong, Jennicka Inkamala, Tara Kelly, Trephina Campbell,

Crystella Campbell, and Mark Fordham.

A bequest from the late Alice Springs artist and children’s book illustrator Pamela Lofts to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation has borne its first fruit. In April last year it supported a week-long workshop for Yirara College students with Indigenous writers Ali Cobby-Eckermann, Lionel Fogarty and Lorna Munro. The students were encouraged to write stories and poems and to illustrate them. The result is The Yirara Mix Book, launched in an event at the Town Library last week.
Time spent in desert bushland and with family looms large in the writing, but there are also some seaside tales with at least one student calling Broome home. There are some dreamtime stories, a hymn to Jesus, some hymns to nature – two by Mark Fordham revealing a love of solitary contemplation and a search for the language to go with the experience. There is an account of a scary dream, another of a scary night in broken down car on a lonely dirt road, and a dark fantasy about zombies. There are some descriptions of the Yirara experience and ethos, and two students, Crystella Campbell and Trephina Campbell, talk about their ambitions which include playing representative sport and going to university.
The attractively produced book is well supported by its striking cover illustration – the erritja or “King of the Skies” by student Melton Armstrong.
Lofts’ bequest is ongoing for as long as royalties continue to flow from her much-loved titles: Koala Lou, Hunwick’s Egg, Bedtime Picture Book Pack 1 (Australia Post), Dumbi the Owl, Sail Away, Snug as a Hug, When the Snake Bites the Sun, Wombat Stew and Wombat Stew Cookbook. Each of these books sold helps the Literacy and Learning Program in Lofts’ name, administered by the ILF.
p1929LoftsdrawingAt the launch Cobby-Eckermann recalled that her literary career got underway in Alice Springs when she did a creative writing course at Batchelor Institute in 2001. She began reading her poetry at Diva nights at the then Alice Springs Resort and later at “amazing evenings of literature” at Paul Ah Chee’s gallery on Gap Road
She spoke movingly of the memory of Pamela Lofts (at right):
“This bequest is much bigger than tonight, it’s a true message to Australia. Friendship and opportunities shared through the arts are moments and memories of beauty and exchange. I feel Pamela honoured this by showing her friendship and respect and a heartfelt gift to say thank you to the land and its people who enriched her life. Our politicians could learn a lot from Pamela about how friendship and respect can work. And Alice Springs always shows examples about how friendship and respect can work.”
Most of the titles the ILF produce – over 40 in the last four years – are distributed direct to Indigenous communities – some 230 of them. In the case of The Yirara Mix Book, each of the contributing students will get 10 copies to distribute among their families and friends and other copies will go to the college.
The ILF has raised over $3m since its inception five years ago, much of it through individual donations, anything from $20 to $5000. Apart from publishing, it gifts new books – over 100,000 thus far – and literacy resources to remote communities.

– Kieran Finnane



  1. Pam was and is an inspiration. She contributed so much to our community. Her art opened so many eyes to the beauty around us.
    Watch This Space Gallery continues to promote celebrate and display contemporary art in Central Australia. A job Pam began 21 years ago.


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