When Maragret Cossey got an email informing her she was to be awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) she was sure it was a hoax.
"The email turned up a couple of months ago and I just thought it was a scam," she said.
"I was deleting all the rubbish emails and I thought 'that's a disgrace'. Fortunately I was at my son's, and I said to Matthew 'Look at this, somebody could fall for this!'
"Anyway he looked at it and said no, that's it!"
While pleased that her 25 years of work to improve Aboriginal literacy and special-needs education has been recognised, she says she has really been only a conduit for the stories told by Aboriginal people.
Ms Cossey says a six-year-old Cootamundra Aboriginal boy was the inspiration behind what became a very large-scale publishing venture.
Over the past three decades, hundreds of thousands of elementary readers telling Aboriginal stories have been distributed to schools throughout Australia.
"The primary aim was to create contemporary and culturally appropriate material so Aboriginal kids felt that reading was their thing.
"If you've got all white faces and white stories it might not be your thing - so the primary purpose was to give that entry - but the books are also meant to be read by non-Aboriginal children."
The six-year-old boy, Ms Cossey says, was a kid at Sacred Heart Primary when she was a special needs teacher there.
"He probably has no idea that he started this, but when I was teaching him I couldn't engage him in any of the stories in our books, and he was forever telling me about him and 'pop' - his grandpa - and what they'd done when they went fishing or roo shooting or rabbiting.
"So I started taping him and used what he said to write little stories with him and he learnt to read that way, with stories he owned, with his name on them.
"The Catholic Education Office in Canberra got wind of this - a literacy consultant came over and said 'oh that's a good idea' and we got the support of the then director, Anne Last, to develop it.
The Canberra office encouraged Ms Cossey to spend lots of time in the Aboriginal communities in the diocese at Lake Cargellico, Batemans Bay and Eden.
The project was helped with guidance from academics at CSU and Sydney, and elders and communities from inner city Sydney and Melbourne to Wilcannia, Boggabilla and many other communities.
After seven years she founded a publishing company called Indij Readers.
With aunties and elders she presented the project for funding to governments, companies and charities.
On the process involved, Ms Cossey says there's "nothing better" than hearing a really good story told by a good storyteller.
"I haven't ever heard better storytellers than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children in full flight telling a 'deadly' yarn.
"To capture the essence of a story, I would usually tape the author telling the story, sometimes half a dozen or more times in different settings and moods then get it down on paper. Together with the author we would tweak it until it was just how the author wanted it."
In 2009 Ms Cossey resigned from Indij Readers and with a close friend started another publishing company, TwoWay Talk Pty Ltd, which developed two publications, a book for Jobs Australia profiling indigenous role models, and a bridging course for ATSI people who wanted to complete their TAE certificate IV in training and assessment.
Finally she joined the staff at Cooamundra High School in 2012 and together with Mrs Deb Lewis developed and implemented some strategies around the school's Aboriginal students and community.
She retired in 2018 and is busy maintaining a 40-acre property near Cootamundra.
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