Research on Indigenous Literacy - a snapshot

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation's (ILF) approach to raising literacy levels starts at a community level. The focus is on early exposure to appropriate and quality books – through book supply – to homes and communities. 

The ILF support first language and culture, and work with community members to translate books into first language. ILF supports the writing and publishing of community stories. 

There are strengths and challenges in each community, but the ILF continues to build relationships and find new ways to support communities according to what they need. 


Naplan test 2016 

The 2016 National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) report results showed that only one quarter of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas were at or above the national minimum standard for reading compared to 91 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

Although there has been a definite improvement amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 3 and Year 5 in reading across the board, there is still a long way to go for students in remote and very remote regions.

Only one quarter of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas were at or above the national minimum standard for reading compared to 91 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

National chair of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Karen Spiller, says there is a long way to go. She welcomes gains in early learning but emphasies that the the transition from primary to secondary school and building writing skills still needs more attention from policy makers.

WHY THIS GAP? There are many complex issues that impact on the results, and in most cases a combination of factors. These include issues of historical, health, social, and educational disadvantage. Even the simplest things, like quality reading materials and resources, items that we take for granted, are not present in many remote and very remote communities across Australia. Most of the remote communities that we work with report there are less than five books in family homes.

Our Foundation's approach to raising literacy levels starts at a community level. The focus is on early exposure to appropriate and quality books – through book supply – to homes and communities. We now supply book packs into more than 230 – 250 remote communities and this number is increasing every year.

Our Book Buzz program is proving effective in one community in WA and shows how providing young children (0-5 years old) with the right resources and in language, is a great start in developing pre-reading skills. See more information here.

The challenges are immense in remote communities and our Foundation is committed to taking sustainable steps to make a difference. There are strengths and challenges in each community, but we continue to build relationships and find new ways to support communities according to what they need.

More more information on these figures, please refer to Table 5.R6: Achievement of Year 5 Indigenous Students in Reading, by Geolocation, by State and Territory, 2016 here.


Closing the Gap report 2015

The results of the Australian Government's 2015 Closing the Gap report showed that: 

  • School attendance rates are as low as 14 per cent in very remote areas of Australia
  • Statistically, there has been no significant improvement between 2008 and 2014 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at or above the national minimal standard in reading and numeracy across the eight measures. (Ie. in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9).
  • In 2014, 34.9 per cent of Indigenous students in very remote areas met or exceeded the national minimal standard for Year 7 reading. 
  • Results for non-Indigenous students show less variation by area remoteness, but for Indigenous students, the gap is much wider in very remote areas than it is in metropolitan areas
  • About 70 per cent of Indigenous students achieved the Year 5 national minimum standards in reading and numeracy. There were significant declines in some states across some year levels. The Northern Territory has the lowest proportion of children achieving minimal standards. 


OECD PISA report 2012

 The OECD’s 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show there is a 2.5 year gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous literacy rates in Australia


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