Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN)

The purpose of this project has been to lay the foundations for sustained improvement in Indigenous adult English LLN policy and programs in the NT.

A key strategy that emerged from WCE research and discussion with the six communities was to employ Indigenous leaders, passionate about education - to provide direction, increase local engagement, and build understanding of campus-based staff through information inter-change and working in close partnership. The Indigenous voice remained central to all WCE activities. The need for a Strategic Priority Project on Indigenous adult Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) was clearly identified by Indigenous people in 6 remote communities this need extends across urban, regional and remote areas of the NT, and is present in the general population as well.

During the second half of 2016, activity was to the adult English LLN strategic project because:

  • Low rates of Indigenous adult English LLN, is a significant constraint to access, progression and attainment not only in higher education but along the educational pathway and in work[1] and in life, and
  • the timeframe was too short to achieve meaningful outcomes if more than one project was undertaken.

The work of the English LLN project was informed by a strongly committed expert consultative group of LLN practitioners and champions who recognised the potential for making a real contribution in the short-term.


[1]It is to be noted that most Indigenous students from the NT who enter higher education are mature age and functioning within a workplace (CDU. 2017).


What became clear about LLN?

  • ­The extent of the need for improvement in the NT, the scale of the problem and the lack of appropriate policy, programs, coordinated and resources
  • Identification of considerable Indigenous stakeholder and multi-sectoral support for the project
  • Improvement in English LLN can have powerful, proven and positive effects on individuals, families and communities, society and the economy

The SPP on English LLN has been aimed at building momentum for system-wide strategic change in the NT through increased engagement around adult LLN within university, government, non-government, business, industry and RTO sectors.More broadly the aims have been to:

  1. Catalyse coordinated action, define responsibility, and increase support for development and implementation of an NT adult English LLN strategy (a multi-partisan, long-term, coordinated, evaluated, community-wide responses)
  2. Increase understanding of the social and economic impacts of low levels of English LLN and the flow on benefits of improvement for individuals, children and families, organisations and community – and build the research evidence base
  3. Document, promote and advocate for innovative LLN delivery models on a Territory-wide basis (e.g. family and social capacity building – not only a focus on individuals, workplace capacity building, community-wide campaigns, community learning centre etc.)
  4. Foster and facilitating Indigenous-led responses and amplify the Indigenous voice in strategy and policy development

Milestone and events

  • July 2016 a CDU workshop on Indigenous adult English LLN was attended by 33 staff to consider LLN services at CDU and consider policy and program environment at regional, state and national levels.
  • On the 12 November 2016 eighty one individuals (36% Indigenous) from twenty-eight organisations and agencies attended a full-day workshop on Indigenous adult English LLN at Charles Darwin University (CDU) as part of the 2016 Indigenous Leaders Conference.
  • On November 2016: a Panel Discussion took place as part of the national Indigenous Leaders Conference: Engagement and the Power of Choice: Indigenous Adult LLN – Core or Peripheral?
  • April 2017: A stakeholder meeting to Canvas ideas from a number of stakeholders around priority next steps for the Strategic Priority Project; gain views on best way to strategically disseminate the Action Strategy, and ; Begin to consider an appropriate engagement and communication model for this stakeholder group
  • September 2017: Release of the Statistical Overview: Aboriginal adult LLN in the NT Report
  • September 2017: One day Symposium attended by over 100 as part of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy national conference

What became clear about LLN?

The LLN Consultative Group

The project has been strongly supported by Indigenous Elders from communities who signed the Statement below. Many LLN practitioners, academics and service providers (government and non-government) also gave advice and informed action, strategy and approach.

Statement of Support, signed on 1st September 2017.

Adults are the first teachers of our children. By the time a young person is 15 years old they need to know their own language at a different level. They need to have a level of understanding, of the meaning of words, and of the power of knowing. As leaders in our communities, we want our people to have a deep understanding of their own languages, our cultures and our traditions.

We also know that our people need this understanding of English Language, Literacy and Numeracy to help enable a future that we can see together, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

These skills are needed so that we can

  • Continue to care for our country
  • Fully participate in all the jobs in our communities
  • Go on to further education
  • Talk confidently to government and services about our issues and negotiate our needs
  • Grow our own businesses that will make the future bright in our communities
  • Support our children and grandchildren in their education so they will have all the successes they deserve

This Report provides our people, the Commonwealth, NT and local governments, universities and other education and training organisations with some data that shows this is a big issue for Aboriginal people in the NT.

We ask all these people to read this Report and join with us to work through the solutions that will help improve our English Language, Literacy and Numeracy skills.

What became clear about LLN?

The work of this group was supplemented by working groups who worked on the final version of the Action Statement for Indigenous adult English LLN in the NT and the statistical overview report of English LLN in the NT.


Action Statement for Indigenous adult English LLN in the NT

Broadly, the Action Statement calls for:

  • COAG indicator for adult literacy needs to be changed - broadened –to includeliteracy beyond the workplace if we are to break the intergenerational cycle of low educational and literacy skills to support teachers, parents and families in their efforts to prevent failure and drop-out. (UNESCO policy statement No 9). There are no resources flowing for NT-wide, for community-wide or family oriented strategies.
  • A decision on which government department in the NT has responsibility for adult education, for leading change in English LLN.At present no NT department has responsibility for leading consultation and collective action to generate a long-term vision for positive change.
  • An Indigenous led long-term funded policy developed in cooperation with all areas being impacted by low levels of literacy – community services, health, law, education etc.Informed by evidence and by qualified and experience LLN practitioners.Tasmanian government has led the charge with their 26TEN state-wide – ten year funded program – they are showing that it can be done.
  • Practically -we need a strategy and a plan for organisations to implement simple English -Government departments and other organisations in the NT – in forms, policy, signage and messaging -to increase accessibility in the short term.Keep it simple.
  • An economic study of the impact of Low levels of LLN and the benefits of improvement – a cost benefit analysis

The Statistical Report on Indigenous adult LLN in the NT

There is no comprehensive source of English LLN statistical data available for the Indigenous adult population of NT. The international LLN survey (PIAAC) did not sample in very remote Australia, and did not cover populations living in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This significantly impacts the utility of the data for the NT and disproportionately affects data for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

The SPP on English LLN has worked with a statistician to jointly produce a statistical report on English LLN in the NT.This incorporates analysis of Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) data from a range of LLN providers such as CDU, Batchelor Institute, Arnhem Land Progress Association, and others.

The Simple English, pictorial report was launched at the September 2017 workshop, and is available for use within the University to support the Post Graduate Diploma on adult Language Literacy and Numeracy Skills Development and presentations to organisations, agencies and indigenous boards.

A statistical overview Report on Indigenous adult LLN in the NT, Fiona Shalley and Allison Stewart, Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Leadership, CDU, September 2017.


29 November 2017

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

​I joined the team in April 2016, just in time for the team meeting at Tennant Creek, where it was realised that the team needed someone to analyse the data that was being generated across the different communities.

Charles Darwin UniversityAustralian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & EducationBatchelor InstituteNAILSMANTG

© 2015 Charles Darwin University

Website created by Dash Media Darwin.