There will no doubt be some readers who remember with sadness the demise, during the 1990s and beyond, of many of the repositories of adult literacy and numeracy resources. Names that come to mind include the Adult Literacy Information Office in NSW and The National Languages and Literacy Institute in the ACT. This was one consequence of the seemingly endless ‘restructuring’ of adult education and VET across Australia.
I remember the efforts that people went to, to try to prevent the erasure of the history of adult literacy and numeracy in Australia as a result of the demolition of these important collections. Sadly without success. Researchers and practitioners can find publications with an ISBN or ISSN number through the National Library. However, this was a period of activism and strategy development in adult literacy and numeracy and many historically significant documents were not formally published.
Fortunately, I had worked quite closely with the UTS Chief Librarian at the time, Alex Byrne. Alex subsequently became the CEO of the State Library of NSW, (part of which is the Mitchell Library) and he was open to my request that the State Library establish an archive of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy. I was about to retire from UTS and held quite a large amount of material linked to my own years of involvement with ACAL and was very concerned that I may have to destroy it. Alex understood the significance of ACAL in promoting the importance of a literate and numerate population and fighting for resources to achieve this. He was also aware of the role of NSW activists in the early days of adult literacy and numeracy in Australia.
The ACAL Archive at the Mitchell Library was established about 15 years ago. It is not a general adult literacy and numeracy collection, but is specifically focused on ACAL’s history. The kinds of material that I donated include conference reports from all of ACAL’s conferences, ACAL submissions and responses, various correspondence, committee records, significant speeches, strategy documents, posters, flyers, photos and so on. Inevitably, the Library is not able to accept everything and as I have not accessed the archive I am not sure what has been kept. Nonetheless, I thank the State Library of NSW for maintaining the ACAL Archive and trust that it will continue to accept relevant material for future researchers in this important part of Australia’s history.
March 3, 2019