Jack Beetson is an Indigenous educator and proud Ngemba man, and has been at the forefront of systemic change to Aboriginal literacy for decades.
As the Executive Director of Literacy for Life Foundation – an Aboriginal-led adult literacy charity – he aims to lower illiteracy rates in Aboriginal communities to between 10% and 20%. Jack says that number is the ‘tipping point’ to eradicating illiteracy in communities – a number which affects much more than people’s ability to read and write.
“It affects every social indicator of a person’s life.
“It’s the most prioritised determinant in keeping people out of prison, having better health and accessing further education,” Jack said.
However, there is a lot of work to be done to get to that number. Some remote Aboriginal communities have illiteracy rates of up to 95 percent. But Literacy for Life – a community led program – helping to turn those numbers around.
“We train local Aboriginal people who can read and write to teach those who can’t.
“We pick people up, we provide food when they arrive.
“It’s about the whole community doing the same thing to encourage one another,” Jack said.
The program has received remarkable success so far, which Jack attributes to the community led nature of the program. People are graduating from the program at a rate of about 65 percent nationally and are unlocking better futures for themselves, their families and communities.
“We’re talking about somebody who for the first time can write a paragraph about themselves and their lives,” Jack said.
Beyond that, these newfound literacy skills will all but ensure more opportunities for future generations.
“The best possible gift that we can give an Aboriginal child is a literate mother. That’s just the truth of it.
“Regardless of where you are in the world, all the research points to it. If there’s a literate mum, there will be literate children,” Jack said.
Listen to Jack’s full interview on Hope Drive in the player above. For more information and ways to support, visit Literacy for Life Foundation’s website.
Hero image: Literacy for Life Foundation Executive Director Jack Beetson (left) and graduate Joyce Sands at the Collarenbri Aboriginal Adult Literacy Campaign Graduation Ceremony. Photo credit: Adam Sharman.