Remote NSW can lead the way on Indigenous literacy and Closing the Gap

Executive Director of Literacy for Life Foundation, Professor Jack Beetson, welcomed findings from the Grattan Institute that identify very remote NSW as one of the few locations making significant progress improving Indigenous literacy.

Literacy for Life Foundation has run adult literacy programs for Aboriginal students in remote NSW since 2012 and Beetson said lifting adult literacy levels was fundamental to delivering gains for children.

“The progress in literacy in remote NSW matches feedback we get from schools in the Aboriginal communities where we teach adult literacy,” Beeston said.

“Parents that attend our literacy campaign build their own skills and pass that on through sharing picture books and being more involved in their children’s education.”

The Grattan Institute released the literacy findings this week in a submission to the Closing the Gap refresh process, a joint initiative of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). COAG is meeting this week and the Prime Minister will deliver his annual Closing the Gap report on Monday.

The Grattan Institute submission states:

One outstanding achievement is the performance of very remote NSW Indigenous students in Years 3 and 5, who have made 6-to-12-month improvements in reading and numeracy and even bigger gains in writing.”

Dr Peter Goss, School Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute, said in an interview that the results should be examined to see if they can be replicated.

“Other researchers should be looking at that to say ‘well what are they doing there, are there lessons for other places?’ Anywhere we can improve at scale is worth learning from,” said Goss.

Professor Beetson called on COAG to make adult literacy a priority in the Closing the Gap refresh process.

“Over 50% of Aboriginal adults in the areas we work struggle to read and write. Literacy for Life Foundation is making progress in remote NSW but we need to address Aboriginal adult literacy nationally,” said Beetson.