I have a secret crush. A love of social entrepreneurship. You will be surprised to learn, (or maybe not) that Brisbane has quite a few social innovators in its ranks. One I highly admire, is Suzy Wilson. By day Suzy runs a gorgeous suburban book shop and tea-house in Bulimba, on the south-side of Brisbane called Riverbend Books, and by night she has founded an amazing charitable foundation, tackling the complex issue of indigenous literacy, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Suzy tells me she didn’t ever intend to start a charity. In 2004, Suzy learnt about the plight of Australia’s Indigenous kids at a book industry conference, and simply wanted to do something to help.
“It very quickly developed a life of its own and has proceeded to drag me along in its wake ever since!”
One alarming statistic shows that between 40% and 60% of Indigenous children in very remote locations across WA, SA and NT are achieving below minimum standard in Reading in Year 3. Suzy believes this is something as a nation we cannot ignore.
Suzy’s small thing was the Riverbend Reader’s Challenge, a reading competition to raise funds for disadvantaged Indigenous Australians living in remote communities who were missing out on vital literacy resources. It became a nationwide challenge in 2006 as The Australian Readers’ Challenge, growing and evolving firstly into The Indigenous Literacy Project and then, in 2011, became The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Suzy never dreamt that Indigenous Literacy Foundation would become so big. To date, the Foundation has delivered over 120,000 books to more than 230 remote communities. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation now has an impressive list of ambassadors, including Andy Griffiths, Katie Noonan, Dr Anita Heiss and Alison Lester to name a few.
Suzy credits the amazing support of her staff, friends and family for the success of The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and offers this advice to budding social entrepreneurs;
1. Be bold (Quentin Bryce’s advice to Suzy);
2. When things are tough, be patient and know you will learn something very valuable;
3. Surround yourself with good people.
Suzy’s dream for the future is that the Indigenous Literacy Foundation will continue to thrive beyond her own lifetime.
“I believe many Australians want to help “close the gap” and don’t know what they can do. It is confounding and distressing and shameful that we are not as a country doing better for the first people of this country. ILF offers everyone a simple practical way to help.”
A $25 donation can help buy up to four books for an indigenous child living in remote Australia – donate here.
You are one amazing lady Suzy! Thank you for making the world a better place.