2014-15 Country Report: Australia
Prepared by Barbara Combes
2015 events and resources:
- Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), annual – National Simultaneous Storytime, 25th May and included schools and libraries from all around Australia. Now in its 15th year, the program promotes the value of reading and literacy using an Australian children’s book that explores age appropriate themes, and addresses key learning areas of the National Curriculum for Grades F to 6 and the pre-school Early Learning Years Framework. 2015 title: The brothers Quibble by Aaron Blabey.
- Partners in Literacy – Literacy Framework. Two public events have been hosted by the State Library since the initial forum and workshop, held on the 11th June 2014. Edith Cowan Institute for Education Research report Development of a Literacy Framework for the State Library of Western Australia (2014) is available. It presents the research and findings from data collected through consultations with key organisations, including libraries, academic institutions, businesses, not-for-profit and government agencies. The report provides an overview of challenges in literacy, common issues, gaps in literacy support and areas of interest as well as insight into the role and expectations of the State Library in the development of a state-wide literacy framework.
- The Australian Learning Lecture: Joy and Data by Sir Michael Barber, UK Educationalist. An inaugural lecture which examined the rarely explored intersection between the joy of learning and the way in which we use data to measure, value and enable success.
- Love2Read – ongoing program which was a result of the National Year of Reading in 2012 includes a calendar of events from around Australia.
- Children’s Book Council Australia (CBCA), annual – Book Week, 22nd – 28th Theme 2015: Books light up our world. National event held annually and heavily supported by schools.
- Commonwealth Government of Australia – National Literacy and Numeracy Week, 31st August – 6th September 2015. Theme: Explore and celebrate learning with schools, students, parents and teachers. Read for Australia – 4th September 2015. Read for Australia is about involving parents/carers and the broader community to promote reading together. Sometimes schools invite parents and carers to a reading event in their class or school, others organise visits to local community centres, nursing homes or pre-schools.
- Commonwealth Government of Australia – Adult Literacy and Numeracy
- Australian Council for Adult Literacy (ACAL) – 2015 Conference: Resilience, risk, preservation
- Commonwealth Government of Australia – Reading Writing Hotline
- Indigenous Literacy Foundation, annual – Indigenous Literacy Day, 2nd September 2015.
- Premier’s Book Awards WA, This has now been moved to a biennial event due to lack of funding by the State Government. Voting by the general public.
- NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge – aims to encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students, and to enable them to experience quality literature. This is not a competition.
- NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, annual
- Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, annual
- Queensland Literary Awards, annual
- Children’s choice annual book awards, voted by students:
- Young Australian Best Book Awards (YABBA), Victoria
- Kids Own Australian Literature Awards (KOALA), NSW
- West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA), Western Australia
- Books I Love Best Yearly (BILBY), Queensland
- Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL), ACT – This award appears to be no longer funded.
- State Library WA – Better Beginnings, ongoing. Includes programs for a range of age levels, research on the Better Beginnings program, and literacy and reading, resources for parents and children. A new partnership with mining giant Rio Tinto has ensured funding for this program. New initiatives include the Open Up Reading Campaign, alongside exiting programs for children from Birth to Three, Now we are Four and Five and Read To Me I Love It for remote indigenous communities. Other programs include the Books-To-Go with the Book Cubby, part of the Better Beginnings Creating Books in Communities program which utilises public libraries in the Perth metropolitan area. Better Beginnings in partnership with public libraries across Western Australia, also promotes Baby Rhyme Time and Storytime.
The Commonwealth Government of Australia conducts national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN) at grade levels 3, 5, 7 and 9. Results of the 2015 NAPLAN tests in early August indicated that literacy and numeracy levels have stagnated. Literacy levels have continued to fall over the last 30 years despite initiatives by the States and the Commonwealth governments. Under the NAPLAN testing regime, results also indicate that literacy levels consistently fall between Year 3 (8 YOs) and Year 9 (14 YOs). In Year 3 40-60% of students scoring below the minimum national average are indigenous children located in remote locations in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Current statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that literacy levels in schools have fallen steadily since 2000 and that 44+% of Australians between the ages of 18-90 have literacy levels at or below level 2. Level 3 is considered to be the minimum level required to succeed in high school.
In the 15-34 age group for culturally and linguistically diverse adults who speak English as a first language, 36% are working below level two, while the figure rises to 50% for adults from a non-English speaking background. These results are almost identical for the 35-54 age group, with the figure for non-English speaking background at 55%.
Despite continued efforts by government, schools and other organisations, literacy levels in Australia have not improved and in many areas such as indigenous literacy, appear to be going backward. In spite of research telling us for the last 40 years how important reading and libraries in all sectors are for improved literacy rates, the public library system and education systems in Australia continue to cut funding and support for libraries and professional staff.