Importance of access to literacy

comments 7
Indigenous Australians / Literacy / Motivation
Aboriginal artifacts

Aboriginal artifacts

“Whether it’s reading or writing, literacy is an outlet to an untouchable world – your imagination. Not only is literacy a basic human right, it is a fundamental building block for learning as well as a personal empowerment tool. It is the catalyst for social and global progress.”  (from )

International Literacy Day was held on 8 September 2015. It is a good time to remember that some people have difficulty with the following:

  • reading a medicine label
  • filling out a job application form
  • reading a bank statement
  • understanding government policies and processes
  • assisting their children with their homework
  • and so much more.

When I trained as a literacy tutor I found out that nearly 50% of Australians struggle to read well enough to meet the complex demands of everyday life. This can impact on their independence, physical and mental health and their job prospects. No small matter!

People with low literacy levels can become adept at hiding their problems by making excuses about forgetting to bring their glasses or asking other people to help them. They may scribble words they cannot spell to disguise it. I confess I do this sometimes as well!

When I lived in the Kimberley region of Western Australia I worked with adult Aboriginal women who were keen to learn English. They could converse in their own language but English wasn’t their first language.

It was a watershed moment for me at Election time. I realized how vulnerable they were to being duped into voting for someone who did not represent their best interests. This was when I realised the relationship between literacy, power and equality.

This prompted me to advocate on the need for access to literacy skills to empower people to make their own decisions for their own best interests.


  1. So interesting to read what you say about the Aboriginal women. There is a sadness to thinking they have to learn another language to be understood in their own land. It is a by-line on how once culture can crush another.

  2. Oh, no! I have trouble with all those things (except helping with the homework) because I am obsessive about reading the fine print and there is SO much fine print in all those things! 🙂

  3. In seriousness, this was a wonderful post. For those of us who are well-versed, we sometimes fail to understand those who were not privileged to have been afforded the same educational opportunities. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Thanks for this eye-opening post Rainee. I did not realise the ratio was so high, nor had I thought of the day to day difficulties incurred by those with limited literacy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s