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Forum plenary sessions

This page provides access to video, presentations and summary notes from the event.

Table of contents


Welcome to State Library

Judith McLean profile

Key messages:

  • Introduction of Songwoman Maroochy Barambah to provide the Welcome to Country.  Maroochy is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and an internationally-renowned opera singer. Songwoman Maroochy was the first Australian to perform at the United Nations in New York in 1993 in honour of the International Year for the World’s Indigenous People.


Keynote Speaker and facilitated discussion - Jane Caro

Jane Caro profile
Jane Caro - The importance of a literate community videoJane Caro at SLQ Literacy Forum 2014

Key messages:

  • Literacy helps people navigate what is becoming an increasingly information-driven world
  • Jane provided comparisons between public and private education systems, including that Australia is the 3rd lowest funder of public education among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, but 4th highest funders of private education. Jane indicated that the 2013 Gonski Review into education funding was about giving more to those kids that need the most. However in the current public discourse, putting the case for the disadvantaged is sold as 'the politics of envy'
  • Jane discussed issues around poverty, education and literacy, suggesting that society blames the poor for their poverty because it maintains our own illusion of safety
  • Jane included the need for emotional literacy as well as other forms of literacy - what it is that makes us human, and why this must be taken seriously
  • Jan also suggested  that to continue to flourish, libraries like any other business need to know what  business they are in - and it not the business of lending books - it is escape, fun, dreaming, playing, knowledge, learning, nobody is riding you, information, experiences, empathy

Facilitated question time

Key messages:

  • Are church schools included as public schools? Response - different systems work in different ways. Some jurisdictions include church schools in the public system, but they can't pick and choose who comes. In Australia they can pick and choose
  • What if kids chose to self-educate rather than go to school to play? Response - the most important lessons in school are not the curriculum, it is really just what they practice on. School's incidentals are what is really value, the socialisation and relationships
  • Is there a need for the regulation of the third sector? Response - we mistake compassion with the desire to fix the problem - the human condition is not fixable
  • People are willing to give money but not step out of their comfort zones - what should we do? Response - there are cities within cities but exhaustion is one of the reasons people don't step out of their comfort zones. Everyone going to the local public school was one of the reasons why a local community developed in my area.
  • Social justice is about  budget savings and feeling warm and fuzzy? Response - Spot on - and positive for human development too


Presentation and facilitated discussion – Literacy data: where is it, how to use it and what does it tell us

Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC)

Myles Burleigh profile
Myles Burleigh - Literacy - what can the data tell us video
Literacy - what can the data tell us presentation (PPT 4.2 MB)
Jan Hagston profile
Jan Hagston - Adult skills video
Adult skills presentation (PPT 1 MB)Jan Hagston, Judith McLean and Myles Burleigh at SLQ Literacy Forum 2014

Key messages:

  • The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), through its Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC), collects and  analyses data that assist governments in assessing, monitoring and analysing  the level and distribution of skills among their adult populations as well as the utilisation of skills in different contexts
  • 24 countries take part in the PIACC, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) undertaking the household survey for Australia
  • The [quite] good news is in the area of ‘Problem solving in technology rich  environments’. Only Scandinavia and  Netherlands better than Australia
  • The  good and bad stories are in the areas of literacy and numeracy.  The majority of Australian people are at  competency levels 2 and 3 for both.
    • Numeracy – Numeracy lags behind literacy, with poor numeracy levels increasing, and much  worse for females. Australia is about average among the 24 countries for numeracy
    • Literacy  – The survey indicated that only about 2 million Australian’s could operate at  competency level 4.  However, the good  news is the proportion of people at level 2 or below has decreased, with  Australia in fourth place (behind Scandinavia) in literacy.
  • The PIAAC data tells a different story to what the media tells us.  44% of Australians are below competency level  3, but that does not mean this group can't function in today's economy. The  data indicates that for this group, 11% have a bachelor degree or higher, 38%  have a Certificate III or higher, 22% are in high salaried occupation, 38% read  a book weekly, 79% read newspapers weekly, and 9% have full time jobs
  • The OECD says that these rankings are not benchmarks as they just describe the  tasks that an individual is likely able to complete.  The Australian Council for Education Research  (ACER) assesses the PIACC outcomes as a continuum, NOT as dividing line between levels 2 and 3
  • However, literacy skills are important as there  is a positive correlation between higher literacy levels and having a degree and  employment


Panel and facilitated discussion - Adult literacy: models to inspire you

Robin Black profile
Robin Black - 26Ten - get the tools for life video
26Ten Call to Action presentation (PPT 1.3 MB)

Key messages:

  • 26 letters and 10 numbers that are the tools for life
  • 26  Ten as an organisation it is the public face of the Tasmanian adult literacy  action plan, a marketing and awareness raising campaign, and also grants,  workshops, volunteer tutors, members program, website
  • Some  data -- 1 in 2 Tasmanians are below literacy level 3 – Programme for the  International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data are the most recent  measure and correlates with other measuring scales. This literacy level means this group will have trouble with some degree of literacy
  • At 26Ten, there are 650 volunteer adult literacy tutors located in LINCs (Learning  and Information Network Centres), which are Tasmania’s public libraries plus other services including government service delivery points or child and family  support services
  • 26Ten  promotes 3 things: everyone knows, everyone is supported, and promote plain  speaking.  We know that adult literacy development is a long hard road, and that we are still developing our own  skills in measuring outcomes.

kathleen Smeaton and Robin Black at SLQ Literacy Forum 2014

Kathleen Smeaton  profile
Kathleen Smeaton - The Footpath Library video
The Footpath Library presentation (PPT 2.07 MB)

Key messages:

  • The Footpath Library (TFL) is a service for homeless and marginally housed people,  and which was founded last century by Sarah Garnet in Sydney, operating out of  the boot of her car in response to an observed need in the community
  • TFL is run by volunteers. The Brisbane office delivers books to 12 homeless shelters with a collection tailored to  user needs/wants. All books are donated by companies and publishers through corporate responsibility, and individuals through book drives. TFL believes it is important that the book is brand new or good condition, that the book should be suitable for giving to someone you love and respect
  • TFL collection guidelines suggest no true crime novels, no irrelevant magazines (though National Geographic is popular), and no overdue fines. Often the book becomes a gift for circulation around the recipient’s own networks
  • TFL secured changes to the rules for ‘charitable organisation’ status, on the basis  that reading is a crucial means of escape for homeless people. Reading is reported as making people feel the  way they felt when they lived in a house. This is a need not a want
  • TFL knows that all kinds of people love reading and that talking about books is a commonality. It is a joyful conversation for people to have, with the book and the conversation a means of escape.

Mignon Fanton profile
Mignon Fanton - Sunshine Coast Libraries - Adult Literacy program video
Sunshine Coast Libraries Adult Literacy Programs presentation (PPT 1.3 MB)

Key messages:

  • The Sunshine Coast Libraries Adult Literacy Programs (SSCLALP) is 25 years old. It operates on a not for profit  basis, and has been a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for the last 15  years.
  • SSCLALP is a volunteer network of tutors, funded predominantly through external grants,  and provides a flexible literacy and numeracy program for adults as well as and  conversational English classes.  It is  unique in Queensland
  • A cornerstone of the service is the need for quality SSCLALP staff to support  quality tutors.  Staff require a  Certificate IV in Assessment, while volunteer tutors provide the core of the  program
  • Tutors  are trained, understand their role, and are matched to a student in the program
  • Tutors are usually retired professional people with a wide range of skills and  attributes
  • Tutors need to keep up with technology to be of value to student learning needs.  For example, knowing how to use the latest  mobile phone
  • One of the positives of being located in a library service is that it provides a central community connection, with meeting spaces and equipment and adult  literacy collections stocked through an informed collection program all available
  • The benefits of being an RTO include access to funding, job agency referrals, and a professional presentation for the program, while there are a range of standards  and registration requirements to be an RTO
  • Partnerships are an integral part of the program. SSCLALP provides training for others or as part of vocational education and training (VET) courses for a fee, with the future potential to expand its scope, partnerships, and community connections.


Summing up and thanks to speakers

Judith McLean profile

Key messages:

  • Judith summarised the key messages from the speakers and presenters
  • Judith also thanked all speakers, presenters and participants for their involvement in the Forum
  • Judith indicated that SLQ will provide highlights of the Forum online for information and access by people interested in the economic impact of literacy, with a particular focus on adult literacy  and public libraries people that were unable to join the forum on-site.


Key documents

Last updated
10th January 2017