• From left: Professor Tom Calma, Kim Kelly, Adam Goodes, Mary-Ruth Mendel and Paul Salteri. (The Point)Source: The Point
Boosting reading and writing among Indigenous children - and the wider community - is a cause close to AFL legend Adam Goodes' heart. He was one of the speakers at the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation luncheon in Sydney on Tuesday.
Philip Ly

The Point
15 Mar 2016 - 6:44 PM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2016 - 8:18 AM

Poor literacy skills are more common than what most people would think, says AFL veteran Adam Goodes. 

Goodes was at the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation's (ALNF) luncheon in Sydney, which was used to call for more support in tackling illiteracy among children to break the cycle of poor reading and writing - particularly among vulnerable pre-preschool aged children. 

Currently 20 per cent of children in very remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory can read at the minimum NAPLAN standard. This drops to 10 per cent by the time a child reaches year nine, with school attendance rates falling to as low as 14 per cent.

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Goodes said the foundation helps young people in communities get basic things that others take for granted from day to day, and that's to be able to read and write. 

“Even in the AFL we’d have some of our brothers that would come into the AFL competition, and their numeracy and literacy skills weren’t that great ... to be able to support them at that level was fantastic, and give them and upskill them to be able to understand what’s going on in our meetings,” Goodes said.

The David Jones ambassador said the foundation’s programs help to energise young children, and equip them with skills, which would aid them for the rest of their lives.

“I’m passionate about our people, I’m passionate about education, and I see that education is a way forward for us closing the gap,” he said.

However, funding for quality early childhood education in Australia is "distressingly" behind, and could cost the country $13.3 billion by 2050, an education expert warns. 

The University of Canberra’s Chancellor and Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation’s board member, Tom Calma said: “It is indisputable that as a result of this lack of investment we’re failing our most vulnerable children and communities."

Professor Calma, a Kungarakan and Iwaidja man, said a recent cost-benefit analysis showed investing in quality early education for Australian children aged from birth to 5-years-old would lead to a 600 per cent return.

 He said a child’s socioeconomic status does determine their access to quality early childhood education.

However, quality early childhood education, particularly early language and pre-literacy instruction, can ameliorate the efforts of socioeconomic disadvantage, and its effects on school participation and achievement rates.

Professor Calma said the lack of access and participation in quality early childhood education results in a significant school readiness gap, which widens if developmental vulnerabilities are not addressed in the years leading up to school.

He said Australia is third last among OECD nations in funding quality early childhood education and is calling for a systematic change in the government sector.

The ALNF works across 122 sites nationally, including urban, regional, remote and very remote locations.