July 2020

The Australian Council for Adult Literacy promotes adult literacy and numeracy policy and practice.

Apologies – there were some gremlins in some links in the earlier version

In this issue

1. From The President

2. Webinar: Literacy education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

3. Advocacy

– Foundation Skills definition

– Education IRC


4. National activity in Education

– Senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training Review

– Productivity Commission Skills and Workforce Development Agreement

– Immigration implications for AMEP

– Developing skills for today and tomorrow

5. How to write to your MP

6. Organisations and websites of interest

– Dress for Success

– National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

– The Found Support Project

– Centre for Social Impact

7. Have you read this?

– Narrative Inquiry as Relational Research Methodology and Andragogy: Adult Literacy, Identities and Identity Shifting

8. Update on proposed ACAL survey

9. From the archives – Language and Literacy Policy 1991

10. Adult Learners Week 2020

1. From The President

Jo Medlin

Over the past few weeks there has been a recurring theme about lack of understanding of foundation skills and adult literacy. In dealing with government advisors I saw an underpinning belief that adult literacy is for new migrants, and just as I was putting it down to a blip caused by staff turnover, the Productivity Commission neglected to invite key literacy bodies to a roundtable about foundation skills. This was despite a lengthy submission from NSWALNC that was used in the Productivity Commission’s own information sheet for participants. The explanation was that they were trying to find out what foundation skills are.

Nationally, the term foundation skills was introduced to describe literacy and numeracy as part of a suite of skills linked to employability (Black & Yasukawa 2010). In 2009 a link was drawn between the absence of a current national literacy and numeracy policy and a lack of awareness by key decision-makers about literacy and numeracy issues (Perkins 2009). It was suggested that raising awareness could be achieved by changing the terminology used to a broad and easily understood term such as ‘core skills or foundation skills’ – this would be a more effective way to engage with stakeholders outside the field.

We changed the way we described our field to be more palatable to government and bureaucrats over a decade ago, yet there are still misconceptions. What happened to all the stakeholders we’ve already educated about these issues? According to Murphy, writing for inside story, each political party reshuffle of government departments results in fragmentation, loss of expertise, loss of documentation and loss of institutional memory. It seems we need to educate the current raft of decision makers and influencers.

Jo Medlin
ACAL President

Birmingham factory

2. Webinar: Literacy education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Lesley Farrell, Chris Corbel and Trent Newman: Language and Literacy Research Hub, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Friday 12-1pm August 28, 2020.

Free and preference is given to ACAL members.

This webinar workshop is inspired by Literacy 4.0 Project researchers Lesley Farrell, Chris Corbel and Trent Newman and their recent paper Literacy and the workplace revolution: a social view of literacy work practices in Industry 4.0.

The workshop gives participants practical insights into what Literacy 4.0 means for adult literacy and numeracy teachers, especially in relation to recent technological shifts in education.

Webinar details and registration

3. Advocacy

Foundation Skills definition

ACAL has contacted the Productivity Commission about foundation skills and will continue to discuss the definition of foundation skills and the needs of adult learners. ACAL has also endorsed a submission to the Productivity Commission by Adult Learning Australia (ALA) following the interim report on the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development.

Read the response here

Education IRC

The ACAL President is our representative on the Education IRC. The Education IRC looks after the TAE and FSK training packages. Following contacts by some resource and assessment writers, we have started to collate feedback on the new FSK units. If you would like to contribute feedback you can email acalpresident2020@gmail.com


The OECD recently announced that PISA (the OECD’s assessment of 15yr olds) will be delayed by a year, but have not announced the official position yet on PIAAC (the OECD’s adult competency survey) . PIACC involves in-the-field data collection so seems unlikely to run until covid19 transmission has been contained. Unfortunately, when PIAAC does run in Australia, it will be under the 2010 budget allowance, restricting the ability to provide nuanced data across the country. We have asked the Australian Bureau of Statistics for an official update. Hopefully we will receive a response in time for the next newsletter.

4. National activity in Education

Senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training Review

The Review, led by Professor Peter Shergold AC, has provided the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Education Council with advice and recommendations on how senior secondary students can be better supported to choose the pathway into work, further education and/or training that is right for them. The Review is one of eight national priority initiatives included in the National School Reform Agreement. The final report, Looking to the Future: Report of the Review of senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training, was published by Education Council on 23 July 2020.

Read the report here

Productivity Commission Skills and Workforce Development Agreement

The study is to examine how well the Australian, State and Territory governments have achieved their goals for the vocational education and training (VET) system as set out in the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development, and the suitability of this agreement for the future. As part of this task, the Commission is to examine several related issues, including how governments can better coordinate their support for VET, options for improving funding and pricing arrangements, and how to ensure that government investment in VET produces the best returns for the community.

Information is available here

Immigration implications for AMEP

The Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) has written to Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge about the implications for the AMEP of the suspension of immigration for the foreseeable future. The letter recommends lifting existing AMEP eligibility requirements to address the backlog of unmet English language learning needs in the Australian community.

Read the letter here

Developing skills for today and tomorrow

Foundation-skills-logoThis package is described as laying the building blocks for reforms identified in the review of Australia’s vocational education and training system (Joyce Review), placing industry at the centre and raising the profile of VET as a career pathway of choice. It takes important steps towards longer term funding and governance reforms to help ensure that the VET system is responsive, respected and flexible into the future. Included in the package is the Foundation Skills for Your Future Program.

  • View the whole package here
  • View the Foundation Skills for Your Future Program here

5. How to write to your MP

Contact your MPACAL is in the process of putting together a kit for practitioners and their students about contacting MPs and raising issues of importance to constituents during times of social, economic and political transformation.

The flyer is the first instalment in the ‘Contacting your local MPs kit’ which is to be located on the ACAL website.

Readers’ feedback about the flyer and also news about contact they’ve already made with MPs would be gratefully received and help ACAL to increase the kit’s relevancy and impact in the field.

Download the flyer (PDF)

6. Organisations and websites of interest

Dress for Success

This is a not-for-profit organisation that helps women who may have fallen into financial difficulty find work and get back on their feet. For example, each year, Dress for Success in Sydney helps over 3,500 unemployed women across metropolitan, regional and rural NSW into work and regain financial independence. They aim to empower women to change their lives, and those of their families, for the better. Services include a dressing service, job-search skills, career support webinars, resume assistance, mock interviews, and career coaching. Branches are also located in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart.

Dress for Success

National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

The Commission’s role is to help to minimise and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 on jobs and businesses and facilitate the fastest recovery possible once the virus has passed. The Commission has been set up to advise the Government – and is fully accountable to the Prime Minister and the Australian people. The Commission is engaging across government, with business and Not-For-Profit organisations, to inform their advice to Government. Your ideas or information can be sent to the NCCC Enquiries inbox (NCCCEnquiries@pmc.gov.au). The NCCC will ensure they are provided to the appropriate areas in the Commission and any relevant taskforce or Government agencies.

Found Support projectThe Found Support Project

Justin Hayes is a teacher at Holmesglen who is exploring the definitions of foundation skills and the inconsistencies. His article titled ‘LLN’ is dead. Long live ‘foundation skills. Maybe. seemed particularly relevant this month given the confusion in some government departments around the definition of foundation skills.

Read the discussion

Centre for Social Impact

During the first COVID lockdown, the Centre for Social Impact had to cancel their conference. They replaced it with a series of webinars called impact2020. Series one is available online via their Youtube channel.

Adult literacy and numeracy practice is offered with an intention of positively impacting the lives of learners. It isn’t apparent however that our sector is systematically measuring the outcomes and subsequent impact of our practice and using this information to inform policy and program design.

In these webinars you can learn about how social impact measurement is informing other sectors and imagine how our sector might harness this approach.

For an introduction to outcomes measurement, see webinar 12.

CSI Youtube channel

7. Have you read this?

Narrative Inquiry as Relational Research Methodology and Andragogy: Adult Literacy, Identities and Identity Shifting

by Sandra Jack-Malik & Janet Lynne Kuhnke (2020)

Abstract: Using narrative inquiry as a relational methodology and as andragogy, the research puzzle was to deepen understanding of the experiences of women, living with limited literacies and as they engaged in tutoring. This work animates the temporal, curriculum and life making experiences of a tutee and tutor within the context of adult literacy with a focus on learning to write. As the study progressed and as trust developed, tension filled stories were experienced, shared and reimagined.  Thinking through the lens of Dewey’s continuity of experience we demonstrate the links between literacies, curriculum making, and efforts to shift identities. Field texts provided textured and nuanced descriptions of narrative inquiry as andragogy, while supporting the tutee to expand her literate identity and the tutor to become more relational. This work invites readers to reimagine the ways in which educators practice alongside adults who are described as struggling readers and writers.

Read the article (PDF)

8. Update on proposed ACAL survey

A draft of the ACAL survey whereby eNews recipients are invited to share their experience of online teaching and learning during the COVID-19 virus isolation period has been prepared.

We expect to distribute it in the next week or so. Please take the time respond to the questions posed. Your responses would then form the basis of a Conversation Starter.

9. From the archives – Language and Literacy Policy 1991

Archives 1991 ploicyACAL was recently given a set of archive materials from Peter Waterhouse that are relevant to the field of adult literacy. We hope our new archive section will give you an understanding (or reminder) of where we came from, some ideas to cling to, a few lessons learned, and perhaps insight into mistakes not to repeat.

This month we bring you the language and literacy policy of 1991 and associated documents. Maybe you’ll find something that resonates with you in this trip down memory lane.

The Australian Language and Literacy Policy, released by The Hon. John Dawkins MP, Minister for Employment, Education and Training, August 1991.

See the Waterhouse summary (PDF)

See the actual archive document

10. Adult Learners Week 2020

Adult Learners Week 2020

Renew you during ALW2020

Learning gives us knowledge of the world around us. It can help us transform into something new – something better. Why not begin or continue your renewal by joining an Adult Learners Week event near you?


Adult Learners Week

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Contact ACAL



GPO Box 2283 Canberra ACT 2601