Urgent calls for policy on Indigenous adult English language literacy

11-Sep-2017

The team behind a new report, driven by findings of a Whole of Community Engagement initiative, calls for policies to address low English language literacy among Indigenous adults.

The team behind a new report, driven by findings of a Whole of Community Engagement initiative, calls for policies to address low English language literacy among Indigenous adults.


A stark new report that reveals many Indigenous adults in the Northern Territory lack the English language skills to function independently in the workplace will be presented at a symposium at Charles Darwin University.

CDU researchers sourced data from multiple agencies for a statistical overview, after Indigenous leaders in six remote communities raised concerns about a lack of responsibility for policy direction in the adult English language and literacy space.

Project leader Allison Stewart said there was no comprehensive evidence base on which to build holistic policy responses, despite more than half of Indigenous people in the NT speaking English as an additional language.

“This report describes the situation in the NT as best we can,” she said. “Indigenous people make up 30 per cent of the NT population and are highly significant to economic development and cultural richness.”

Statistics expert and report co-author Fiona Shalley said more than 85 per cent of a sample group of 660 Indigenous adults did not have the literacy skills to operate independently in tertiary education or the workplace.

“This could translate into a large number across the board,” she said.

The project was driven by the findings of a Federal Government-funded Whole of Community Engagement initiative, led by CDU, at Galiwin’ku, Yirrkala, Gunbalanya, Maningrida, Tennant Creek and Yuendumu.

Ms Stewart said Indigenous adults who sought post-school education success and employment opportunities, negotiated with government and business, and were caring for country, viewed the ability to communicate in English as vital.

“This was asserted alongside recognition that Indigenous languages, traditions and cultures were central – solutions must respect this position,” she said. 

The symposium, part of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy 2017 Conference, will be held at in the Mal Nairn Auditorium at Casuarina campus, from 9am – 4pm on Tuesday, 12 September. 

The group will make recommendations to the Federal Government in Canberra this week.