Cheryl Wiltshire

In the short time we have known of Cheryl’s death, several people have offered these tributes to her.

Cheryl was a long term active member of WAALC and their website has substantial details of her many contributions to adult education.

In addition they have set up a tribute page where people are adding thoughts and reflections. You can add yours too.

Carmel Jennings, Centacare

For us, Cheryl, it started in the early 90’s, adult literacy in the old Skillshare days, you in Derby, me in Mirrabooka. You shared everything from the beginning.  You let me use your stellar application as a model when I was applying for permission to teach the CGEA when it came to WA.  It was the beginning of an even closer friendship.

What a joy it was to teach during the years of CGEA workshops and moderation across the state. The learning was open and rich.  Across the state, we shared our work, our ideas, our tasks and our mistakes. You were always there, in the middle of it all somehow, calmly and quietly, moderating and giving feedback and getting the hard copy of all things moderated back to anyone who wanted it.

For me, the Lotterywest grant encapsulates your very practical approach to problem solving, your tenacity and renowned hard work. What started out as our many enjoyable conversations about who could and could not afford to attend conferences and professional development ended up being the Lotterywest Scholarships.  You are so down to earth. You stuck with the idea and worked relentlessly to get community sector teachers access to great professional development – what a legacy!

In WA, Cheryl, your name is synonymous with adult literacy, CGEA and WAALC.  You have been my friend and colleague for close to 30 years.  When we met in the early 90s, you in your early 30s, little did we know that we would still be discussing literacy for the real world while your grandnieces played with my granddaughters.

Your influence and down-to-earth approach to adult literacy will be well missed.

Love always,


An Unsung Hero – Helen Errington

I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of Cheryl, having just caught up with her 3 weeks ago, at which time she was in good spirits and looking forward to meeting up with family members.

I met Cheryl whilst working at the Department of Education, Training and Workforce Development.

During those years, Cheryl became a valued colleague of mine, in fact I would call her a ‘solid colleague’. Solid in the sense that she was generous with her time, dependable, had an unswerving passion for her work and a quiet ability to manage others to get the job done.  She believed in teams and she encouraged people to flourish.

She was an ally for the cause of equal opportunity, recognising that issues of impairment discrimination, for example, can be structurally created. She was always mindful of making sure that the conferences and projects she was involved with were inclusive.

Cheryl’s interests, skills and knowledge extended beyond her work environment. She worked incredibly hard to create a self-sustaining lifestyle. Amongst her myriad of talents – she was a woman of the land. She would often bring her home-grown produce to share with us at work. Her mulberries were plump, juicy, sweet and the best!

I am privileged to have known Cheryl both as a good friend and colleague. She lived her life making a difference for people.

Thank you Cheryl for all that you contributed.

Rest in peace.

Love Helen

Don MacDowall, ACAL Admin

I can’t remember when I met Cheryl – she’s always been there, not in a passive sense, but engaged, active, thoughtful and determined.

I guess it would have been about 2007 when I started working with ACAL and over the intervening years Cheryl was often the WA rep on the ACAL Committee. A steady, knowledgeable voice on teleconferences and a ready participant in the occasional face-to-face meetings.

I also worked with Cheryl at conferences, sometimes in person, sometimes by email and phone. I particularly recall her role in the ACAL conferences in WA in 2009 and then in 2016 innovatively leading a new approach in conjunction with the national TESOL association.

The 2010 ground-breaking ACAL Conference in Darwin is illustrative. At the event Cheryl, part of a national organising committee, seemed to be everywhere from dawn to late providing practical help to speakers and organisers alike as we grappled with logistics and tech across the campus. I think Cheryl lived in Darwin and the NT for a few years and was a strong advocate for this endeavour. I was content to leave the program to literacy and numeracy experts but felt compelled to ask why she was so strongly in favour of making Mindil Market (something not on my southern-state radar) a social event option. When I asked ‘What’s so special about it?’ Cheryl, gently assured me 1. It was a famous tourist attraction and 2. it would be a great option. Of course, she was right on both counts.

Cheryl was a voice of reason with passion and conviction and depth of knowledge and experience few bring to the field.


Patsy Konigsberg, Glenys Collard, Coral Brockman and Karen Cowie

We are saddened to hear of Cheryl’s passing.  We remember Cheryl as a warm-hearted, reliable professional, dedicated to supporting students, and especially Aboriginal students, helping them succeed in whatever career or educational pathways they chose to pursue.

Cheryl, as Margaret’s McHugh’s close colleague, collaborated with us over many years on a range of programs and initiatives.  This included the ABC of Two-Way Literacy Learning Capacity Building and the Tracks to Two-Way Learning projects.

In 2016, Cheryl, co-convened the ACTA/ACAL international Diversity – Exchanging Ways of Being Conference.  Cheryl managed the budget with great skill and the funds she raised through Lotterywest assisted many community and not for profit workers to attend and present at the conference.

Cheryl was a passionate supporter of two-way learning.  She had a track record dedicated to the continual improvement of a range of Aboriginal programs when living in the Kimberley and she continued to pursue this goal through her work in Perth.  We know that the news of Cheryl’s passing will come as a shock to many whose hearts she has touched in the past and she will be sadly missed by us all.

Keiko Yasukawa, UTS and ACAL

It was with great shock and sadness that I learned about the death of our colleague Cheryl Wiltshire. I had the privilege of knowing and working with Cheryl over a number of years when both of us were members of the ACAL Committee.

I remember Cheryl as someone who served on the ACAL committee with a strong sense of integrity and commitment, and always generous in sharing her knowledge and experience. She was a reliable and skilful organiser of ACAL conferences, always taking pro-active steps to secure sponsorships and scholarships to extend access to as many practitioners and student teachers as possible. Her understanding of the big picture helped us in the ACAL Committee to be aware of developments outside of our own adult literacy ‘bubble’; when the Australian curriculum was being developed, she was the one who alerted us to keep an eye of how a national school curriculum could impact on our work in adult literacy. In my academic researcher role, I benefited from her wealth of knowledge and contacts she provided me about the WA CAVSS program.

It has been a few years since Cheryl has been directly involved in ACAL work, but I know that the work that ACAL is doing now, and will be doing in the future, will always be indebted to what Cheryl contributed to this organisation.

Christine Laird, Director Education Employment and Transitional Services

Cheryl has had a strong connection to correctional education in Western Australia for over twenty years. As a colleague, mentor, guide and auditor. The Education and Vocational Training Unit worked closely with Cheryl in her roles at Kimberley Skillshare, CY O’Connor TAFE, DTWD, ACAL, WAALC and with the Office of the Custodial Inspector.

I myself have worked closely with her, drawing on her professional advice to shape the adult literacy curriculum we see today in our prisons. The knowledge she has shared is irreplaceable and her commitment to adult education truly inspiring. She has always been the champion of the CGEA and the EGE curriculum for our adult basic education students.

In her role as an auditor with the Office of the Custodial Inspector, Cheryl reviewed the education and vocational training services to adult prisoners across the state.  Cheryl provided guidance and advice on business improvements to services to this equity group.

Geoff Pearson, Agenda Communication

I am greatly saddened at the sudden loss of one of Australia’s, and WA’s, most stalwart defenders of the right of all to be literate. Although I have known Cheryl since the late 80s, it wasn’t until 2010 that our working lives suddenly linked up on a near-daily basis. I had proposed the establishment of a professional development program called the Teach Me Grammar Program designed to provide Literacy and ESL teachers with the knowledge and skills and expand their teaching strategies to include the explicit teaching of grammar.

As with all things literacy, Cheryl knew her stuff, so she was wary.  Very wary.  Grammar had so often in the past been a treacherously submerged, jagged rock on which many a past learner’s “ship of promise” had been snagged and wrecked. I would have to prove that what I was proposing would not be a return to more such rocks.  Over several months in 2010 and early 2011, the proposal was knocked into shape between us, with input from her great pal-at-arms, Margaret McHugh, before she gave the go-ahead for a pilot late that year.  It was Cheryl who insisted that participation in the program be competitive and that only teachers who had a minimum of three years’ literacy / ESL teaching experience be eligible; her concern (rightly) was that new, inexperienced teachers might simply learn and then teach grammar rules, and thereby reinstall the jagged rocks.

I remember Cheryl being present on the first day, welcoming the 10 participants, and then regularly visiting the group as the pilot ran over the next six months for a total of 10 sessions. Her visits were never perfunctory or about ticking boxes – she grabbed a coffee and engaged the participants in conversation about their teaching, their students and whether the pilot program was of value. And post session, she would patiently absorb all my own verbal reports and provide me with guidance and suggestions for improvement.

Satisfied with the pilot’s results, Cheryl saw to it that an adapted 12-month program was then funded for the next 8 years. She also regularly provided scholarships for eligible participants to fly in from regional areas across the state, as well as securing two programs run in Albany (2012) and Geraldton (2013).  Cheryl’s heart was always located somewhere in regional WA, I know. She fought tirelessly to prevent distance becoming a barrier.

Cheryl’s ongoing support for the program was unflinching, and for that I shall personally always be grateful. Never more was this true than for the penultimate program (2018-19) which involved a split class – half in Perth, half in Broome, the latter joining me and the Perth “half” each session via Collaborate. At the start, I was a complete novice with Collaborate, and when it became obvious that I would just have to manage this all on my own, as technical people were not going to be available for 4-5 hours at a stretch, Cheryl stepped up and became a full participant AND my technical support, chat-room monitor, troubleshooter and my very own “stress counsellor” when things went awry, as invariably they do.  True to form, Cheryl stayed calm, encouraging and such a solid presence in that room. For that alone, Cheryl, I owe you one enormous and unrepayable debt of gratitude.

And for everything else you have done over the years for the field, for your special commitment to teachers in remote and regional areas, and for what you brought to my own life and career, thank you.  You were one in a million.

Vale Cheryl. Sleep well.

Geoff Pearson

More from ACAL members and friends

Cheryl has been a great inspiration and mentor to me and many others in regards to Aboriginal education, Two-Way bidialectal education and anything VET. My thoughts are with her family.


I’m very shocked and saddened to hear the news of Cheryl’s death.
I knew her only slightly but she was a great person to know.
She was always positive and energetic and a wonderful advocate for adults with literacy learning gaps.

At any conference I attended a small or large task that needed to be done, to make the conference flow: in jumped Cheryl.
She was always a positive presence.
My sincere condolences to friends and family

Lindee Conway.

Carol Muir, Linda Kell, Tessa Prince, Michelle Dodd and CAVSS staff at South Metro Tafe

Cheryl took up the reins from Margaret McHugh conducting regular CAVSS training workshops at South Metro Tafe over many years. We are indebted to her commitment, knowledge and collaborative approach to this training and in turn the creation of Tafe learning environments that foster the development of LLN skills in the vocational setting. We will miss her ‘down to earth’ approach and that warm understated smile.

Joanna Hall
First time I went to a CGEA workshop run by Cheryl, she said something that has really guided me as a teacher. She said ” there is no secret knowledge in this course. If you want the students to learn something, tell them clearly. How, what, why, give them control over their learning.” I’ve got the words wrong after all these years (it was 1996 or something) but that idea that learning is sharing and engaging together has really stayed with me and still does.