The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation (ACLF) – Interview with CKT

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How did the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation get started?

The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation (ACLF) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2008. Originally known as the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance (ACLA), the name was changed to ACLF in 2018 to clarify the focus of the organisation’s work. The ACLF is a collegial and inclusive organisation with representation from across the field of children’s and young adult literature.

The primary activity of the ACLF is the development and management of the Australian Children’s Laureate Program. On 11 February 2020, Ursula Dubosarsky was named the sixth Australian Children’s Laureate and will serve in the role throughout 2020 and 2021.

What are the goals of the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation?

At ACLF we believe ‘Reading changes Lives!’ – so much so, that it is the organisation’s motto. The ACLF’s vision is ‘enriching the lives of young Australians through the power of story’.

We have five clear objectives to bring this vision to life – to promote the value and importance of reading, to raise the profile of books in the lives of children and young adults, to respond to identified needs and issues in the Children’s and Youth Literature national landscape, to champion the cause of Young Australians’ reading in a consultative, collegial and inclusive way, and to undertake selected national projects that will promote these objectives.

How are your Laureates selected?

The Children’s Laureate will be an Australian author and/or illustrator of children’s and/or youth literature, who is making a significant contribution to the children’s literature canon of this country.

The two most recent Laureates (Morris Gleitzman 2018–19), and (Ursula Dubosarsky 2020–21) were selected by the ACLF Board after consultation with Australia’s literature, arts and educational organisations. Key organisations were invited to submit up to three names for consideration. These suggestions were considered, and the final choice made following set selection criteria which the Board has adhered to since establishing the program.

What is the role of the Laureate once chosen?

The role of the Australian Children’s Laureate is to promote the importance of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

The Laureate is the national ambassador for reading and Australian children’s literature and is well positioned to speak on behalf of all creators and of the entire industry. They visit every Australian state and territory, appearing at a huge range of events, including schools, libraries and conferences.

The Laureate champions a chosen cause throughout their tenure. The 2020–21 Laureate Ursula Dubosarksy has chosen the theme ‘Read for your Life!’.

Each Laureate releases a calendar and a short writing activity for children every month. These are published on the ACLF website (www.childrenslaureate.org.au).

The Laureate also forms strong international links with Laureate counterparts which has led to further promotion and participation by Australian creators at international literary forums.

What are some of the themes supported by the Australian Children’s Laureates since the program began?

Each Laureate has a distinctive voice and their approach is reflected in the different projects. This also enriches and refreshes the ACLF’s messages and widens our audience, while allowing us to stay true to our overarching mantra that ‘Reading changes Lives!’.

As we mentioned, Ursula Dubosarsky’s slogan is ‘Read for your Life!’. She is hoping to build on the amazing work being done by public libraries and is urging young people to obtain a library card and join their local library, in order to develop a life-long habit of reading.

The 2018–19 Laureate, Morris Gleitzman promoted the inspiring credo that ‘Stories Make Us’, encouraging thoughtful self-realisation, empathy and understanding of others, via storytelling.

Other powerful Laureate messages have included: ‘It’s Your Story’ (Leigh Hobbs, 2016–17); ‘Share a Story’ (Jackie French AM, 2014–15); ‘This is My Place’ (Alison Lester AM, 2012–13); and ‘Storykeepers’ (Boori Monty Pryor, 2012–13).

What is the Australian Children’s Laureate Summit?

The Australian Children’s Laureate Summit is a gathering of children’s literature industry representatives. The inaugural summit was held in partnership with the University of Sydney in February 2019. On day one, representatives from over 80 organisations involved with children’s literature in Australia participated in discussions. This resulted in the creation of the ‘One Loud Voice’ network for future collaborations. The event also brought together all five past and present Laureates for the first time.

On the second day, 120 children from disadvantaged primary schools gathered at the Sydney Opera House. They shared their insights as well as taking part in reading and writing activities with the Laureates and the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People.

A second summit was held in conjunction with Somerset Storyfest on the Gold Coast in March 2020, with a third summit being planned for early 2021.

The ACLF also played a founding role in initiating International Children’s Laureate Summits, the fourth of which was held at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2019.

How is the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation funded?

The ACLF receives its funding in the form of grants and donations and has held deductible gift recipient (DGR) status since 2014.

Major funding has been gratefully received for the current term via the Federal Government via the Australia Council for the Arts, the Copyright Agency Ltd Cultural Fund, Gourlay Charitable Trust, and the Australian Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia. We have also received generous support from publishers Allen & Unwin, Penguin Random House Australia and HarperCollins Australia.

We are also extremely grateful for individual donations and in-kind support offered by a number of organisations, which allow us to advocate and share our message to such a widespread audience.

The ACLF is guided by an amazing volunteer Board, which brings together a vast array of skills, passion and abilities. It is the commitment of this fabulous team that underpins the fantastic inroads being made by the Foundation towards achieving our vision and spreading the message that ‘Reading changes Lives!’.

A full list of our supporters can be found on our website www.childrenslaureate.org.au

How can people get involved with the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation?

At the ACLF, we are always thrilled to talk to anyone who would like to support the work we are doing.

The simplest way to promote our message ‘Reading Changes Lives’, is to spread the word. Talk to your school libraries and public libraries and encourage kids to read. We have resources available on our website, including our fabulous Laureate calendar (for download) and writing activities.

You can also donate. Even the smallest contribution can make a huge difference to the lives of young Australians.

If you would like to support the Australian Children’s Laureate Initiative by offering financial, in-kind or volunteer support, please contact us via email at 

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