From Havana to Ltyentye Apurte, NT

The Literacy for Life Foundation held an official launch in Ltyentye Apurte today, kicking off a campaign called Yes, I Can! to help locals improve their English language reading and writing.

The innovative approach has helped over ten million people learn to read and write around the world, including near neighbour, Timor-Leste, where over 200,000 joined the campaign.

The work begins a decade after the Lowitja Institute convened a round table in Alice Springs, bringing together Aboriginal leaders from the health and adult education community-controlled sectors, where it was agreed to trial the Yes, I Can! adult literacy campaign model in Australia.

To date, the Yes, I Can! campaign has been successfully delivered in several remote Aboriginal communities in western NSW, with 207 students graduating.

The completion rate of 63% is over four times higher than equivalent courses run in the region.

“The Yes, I Can!  method was originally developed in Cuba and has now spread to 30 countries across the globe,” said Literacy for Life Foundation Executive Director, Professor Jack Beetson.

“Over several years, Literacy for Life Foundation has developed an excellent relationship with Cuba through its Embassy in Canberra,” he said.

“To help us get this up and running Cuba sent an expert Technical Advisor to work and live in Ltyentye Apurte to train the local facilitators in the method,” Professor Beetson said.

According to Project Officer, Wendy Smyth, The Foundation has trained five Ltyentye Apurte residents to carry out a household literacy survey, helping lift awareness of adult literacy and providing vital information used to plan the campaign.

Locals have also been trained as classroom Facilitators and classes kick off next Monday, April 29.

“We are very excited to finally start in Central Australia and we’re encouraged by the great support we are getting from local leaders and organisations, especially the local Health Service, AAAC and Catholic Care, the School, and the Shire. Everyone is making us feel so welcome,” Smyth said.

The Yes, I Can! campaign runs over six months, for three hours daily, for three days per week. There is also a catch-up class for those who miss lessons.

The local Community Working Group said:

“When people, government and organisations from across the community come together, you can achieve big things. Yes, I Can! works for our mob because it is owned, run and delivered by local people with professionals from Literacy for Life Foundation providing daily support and training.”

Stephanie Bell, Literacy for Life Foundation’s Central Australia Regional Advisor, said: “Lifting Aboriginal adult literacy not only helps individual families and the community, but the entire region feels the benefits. We encourage everyone to get involved in whatever way they can. It’s about the literate acting in solidarity with those who have very low English language literacy.”

Research shows that improving adult literacy levels has a knock-on effect in connected areas such as helping to improve community health, lifting school education outcomes and reducing crime.

Literacy for Life Foundation’s Ltyentye Apurte campaign is funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.