Alex Wharton from Carinya Christian School in Gunnedah, NSW, is the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund’s first Reading Australia Fellow for a Teacher of English and Literacy.

Copyright Agency’s CEO Adam Suckling says, ‘The Reading Australia Fellowship provides $15,000 to a leading English and literacy teacher to develop a career-enhancing research project which can be shared with other teachers to further the profession.’

Reading Australia is Copyright Agency’s hub for teachers, bringing Australian stories to life through the provision of peer-developed teaching resources, essays and learning materials.

Alex Wharton’s research project will explore best practice around teaching Indigenous literature in the classroom to develop a greater understanding of the issues, protocols and sensitivities involved. He will share what he has learnt with the wider teaching community.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is a cross-curriculum priority in Australian schools but teachers can struggle with the confidence to accurately bring these perspectives to life – and that’s where research in this area is so critical. You cannot replace the power of reading a story from an Indigenous person’s perspective to challenge stereotypes and deepen understanding,’ adds Mr Suckling.

As a teacher in a regional school, Mr Wharton says access to the Fellowship will enable him to meet his professional growth goals, something that is particularly challenging in rural areas.

‘A better understanding of the stories written by Indigenous people will enable teachers to more fully engage Indigenous learners in classrooms,’ Mr Wharton says.

‘This is the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages and I cannot think of a better time for this Reading Australia Fellowship to focus on genuinely bridging intercultural understanding, offering further pathways towards reconciliation and recognition.’

Judges for the Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy were Lucy Russell, member of the Copyright Agency Board and Cultural Fund; Phil Page from the Australian Association for the Teaching of English; and Wendy Bean, Australian Literacy Educator’s Association.

Mr Wharton has also set up a blog called The Missing Peace to record his Fellowship journey.

The Copyright Agency’s Fellowship programs provide unprecedented financial support to authors, publishers, visual artists and English teachers in recognition of their creative endeavors that enrich and promote Australia’s literary and arts communities. This funding is in addition to the payment of more than $100 million in copyright licence fees to publishers, writers, visual artists and surveyors every year.

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