• Photo: Courtesy Literacy for Life Foundation/Adam S (Supplied)Source: Supplied
An Aboriginal-led campaign is helping mature-aged students across New South Wales close the gap on literacy.
Brooke Fryer

13 Sep 2019 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2019 - 4:34 PM

Sixteen mature-aged students celebrated their graduation from a literacy program at a ceremony in the north-western New South Wales town of Collarenebri on Friday.  

The students went through the Literacy for Life Foundation's Aboriginal Adult Literacy Campaign where they learnt the foundations of writing and reading in English.

Executive Director of the foundation, Professor Jack Beetson, told NITV News the graduates were enthusiastic students.

“People are desperate to learn, people absolutely want to learn… I am extremely proud that they have actually given us and trusted us to give them an education,” he said.  

“Adults that have low literacy are the bravest of the brave.”

Around 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have low literacy, with the figure growing as high as 70 per cent in remote areas.  

Mr Beetson said  it is vital that parents and adults have a basic understating of how to read and write to actively close the gap on literacy and set a bright path for their children.

“There are volumes of reports around the value of parents reading to their children and it is a critical part of the process," he said.

"If you want children to value learning, then they are only going to do that if they see their parents doing that

“How do you possibly get that very basic component of learning to happen if 40 to 70 per cent can’t read or write? How can they read to their children? It is fundamental to the learning process.

“The one gift I can suggest that everyone give to Aboriginal children is to help give them a literate parent.”

Graduate Jedda Filck, 63, said she felt proud about completing the program and had always wanted to finish what she started when she was a child.  

"I wanted to go because I left school when I was in 6th class," she said. 

"I didn’t go right through and I didn’t know how to read and write. I can read a little bit but the reason I went is I wanted to pick a book up because my grandkids used to ask me to read a book to them. But because I couldn’t read I had to make my own stories up.

"I’m not very good at reading, but I’m getting there. I’m very proud of myself that I can read a little bit."

Since completing the course, Ms Filck said she has read a "little" book to one of her grandchildren for the very first time. 

The Literacy for Life Foundation, an Aboriginal-led charity, started in 2012 and has since seen more than 200 Indigenous adults graduate from the campaign across NSW.

There is now a current push to take the initiative nationally.

The campaigns are driven by community locals with the methodology to improve literacy levels quickly.

“The education system itself failed Aboriginal people by and large. Over many many years, it’s failed to work with Aboriginal people,” Mr Beetson said. “So now here is an opportunity to turn that around.”

“If we are talking about closing the gap, then literacy is the essential first step in doing that because if you are not literate you don’t even know there is a gap.”

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