Western Australia: Numeracy and literacy support is helping create education and employment opportunities

Posted on 6 September, 2013

ICV is working closely with the remote communities of Punmu and Jigalong to improve adult literacy and numeracy levels, as part of a long term relationship with communities in the Martu Lands, WA.

The Martu community’s vision for its own future includes improving adult literacy and numeracy to help community members engage in the wider world, gain meaningful employment and support the learning of their children.

In August 2011, ICV volunteers began to help build capacity of community members in the communities of Punmu and Jigalong. As the effects of improved numeracy and literacy flowed through the community, ICV was asked to help make the programs sustainable in the longer term.

In 2012 the original program volunteers Pauline and Peter partnered with a second intake of experienced volunteers to build a pool of skilled literacy and numeracy support for Martu communities throughout the year.

Literacy and numeracy is a challenge for many Australians. But for Indigenous people living in remote rural communities, it can add to the feeling of isolation. Many adults in remote Aboriginal communities missed out on literacy and numeracy education when they were younger. And there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment about taking part in classes as adults.

ICV’s model allows for a personal approach to identifying what is important for community members to learn, and allows people to work at their own pace to achieve their goals. This is a more culturally appropriate method of working with adult learners in remote Indigenous communities than the mainstream models of adult education.

It’s about giving people choices

Everything connected with day to day life in Australia is based on written and spoken English. Even coping with basic daily activities in a language which isn’t your own can be overwhelming. Simple things like reading labels on medicine bottles and food tins can be a daunting and confusing task.

“For Indigenous people to have the choice to work within non-Indigenous society, the English language and numeracy system is essential. I believe that everyone should have that choice in any country in the world but as I am Australian, I particularly want to be part of all Australians having choices in their lives,” says ICV volunteer Lyn.

As a testimony to the success of this approach, Nullagine and Cotton Creek (Parngurr) communities have also recently expressed interest in joining the program.