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Posted on 16 January, 2017

Indigenous Adult English Literacy and Numeracy in the NT: November Workshop

Indigenous Adult English Literacy and Numeracy in the NT: November Workshop

The Whole of Community Engagement’s Strategic Priority Project (SPP) on Indigenous adult English Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) has been increasing action and knowledge-sharing to support positive change for Indigenous adults from remote areas of the NT.

The project arises from listening to people express clear determination and aspiration for themselves, their families and their communities. Literacy and numeracy features strongly in debates and policies around school and early childhood education. Adult LLN is not afforded the same attention, even though it is an essential ingredient for social betterment, lifelong learning, progression in employment and getting ahead in further education. The essential importance of adult literacy is also emphasised in a statement made by Mick Dodson in 2009 when he said “adult literacy is the key to closing the gap in Aboriginal life expectancy”. Although there are some gains, and examples of successful projects in the NT, efforts tend to be stop-start and there is little improvement in levels of English literacy rates.

The third Indigenous Leaders Conference (ILC) 'Engagement and the Power of Choice' was held at CDU on the 10-11 November 2016. A full-day pre-conference workshop called Indigenous adult English language, literacy and numeracy: A time for action was organised by the LLN consultative group composed of Wendy Kennedy (CDU), Lorraine Sushames (CDU) and the WCE’s Allison Stewart (SPP Manager). The workshop was organised in response to the continued and urgent need to advocate for, and increase understanding of equitable, appropriate English LLN solutions for Indigenous adult Territorians – especially Indigenous led solutions.

The workshop drew together a diverse group of about 80 to consult together, identify opportunities, and suggest next steps to support positive change. Thirty five percent of those present were Indigenous. Video messages were also received from two communities where WCE is operating – Galiwin’ku and Yuendumu.

Indigenous Adult English Literacy and Numeracy in the NT: November Workshop

Participants had the opportunity to listen to, and comment on, presentations by 21 individual and group speakers from government agencies and non-government organisations from the NT and interstate. The Australian Government Departments of Education, Employment and Prime Minister and Cabinet gave a joint presentation and the opportunity to ask questions and comment on national LLN/foundation skills policy and programs.

The workshop showcased some of good work taking place in the NT such as remote library initiative (NT Libraries); the Arnhem Land Progress Associations (ALPA) community-store training program, and the Yalu’ in Galiwin’ku.

Social capacity building outcomes are often overlooked in adult LLN where the focus is often on individuals looking for work, not on families, people not in the workforce or communities themselves. At the workshop we looked at three different models which have been developing a good reputation. These were:

  • The “yes I can” community literacy campaign being implemented in Western NSW towns by the Literacy for Life Foundation
  • The Tasmanian government’s 26TEN community literacy campaign, and
  • The community learning centre model – the Jalu Learning centre at Yuendumu funded through the Walpiri Education and Training Trust.

Participants agreed it would be worthwhile to look at these models and methods more deeply in the future to see how elements could benefit the NT.

Elements of a Statement of the day were agreed in the final plenary session. The draft is currently being considered by a group of volunteers and senior community leaders.

The consensus reached by the group included that: English LLN is a civil and human right and is central to learning. Literacy opens doors to education and career pathways and is essential for full participation of Indigenous adults in broader society. Improvements in LLN have proven flow on benefits to children, parents, families and society. We all have a part to play in working towards an urban, regional and remote solution for improved Adult English LLN the Territory. Recommendations included:

  • The NT urgently requires an Indigenous Adult English LLN Strategy with a commitment to resourcing and action for individuals, families and communities – in urban, regional and remote settings.
  • An NT-wide network should be activated across a broad spectrum of stakeholders (including Indigenous stakeholders) in order to focus and guide strategic effort and improve adult literacy outcomes.
  • Genuine collaboration, the valuing of Indigenous knowledge and culture, and acknowledgement of education and career aspirations are essential to any LLN strategy or service delivery model.

The workshop voted to form an NT Network on Adult English Language Literacy and Numeracy and a number of people volunteered to form a working group to support this task. The workshop builds towards the Australian Council for Adult Literacy’s 2017 conference in Darwin as well as NAIDOC 2017 which will have a language and literacy focus.

If you wish to join this initiative or to find out more contact the SPP Manager at [email protected] or the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Office Indigenous Leadership.

Written by Allison Stewart

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