26TEN Community - Burnie

The importance of literacy – Burnie's 26TEN Community

Burnie City Council.jpgWho set up Burnie's 26TEN Community?

In July 2013, Burnie City Council set up a 12-month 26TEN Demonstration Project that was overseen by a Steering Group of people who work in schools, vocational education, business, job skills programs, human services, LINC Tasmania, literacy support programs and local government. A small Working Group from the Council and LINC Tasmania managed day-to-day organising, while volunteers were recruited to help out with various activities.

What was the focus for Burnie's community?

The main focus of the project was raising awareness about the importance of adult literacy and reducing the stigma that people with low literacy sometimes face. Wherever possible, the Steering Group linked adult literacy to existing projects in Burnie that aim to create jobs and help people develop work skills.

How did they engage the community?

A short 'call to action' was developed to encourage people to seek support themselves and encourage family, friends and colleagues to do the same. Further information was given through specific events and activities, including:

  • Information breakfasts and lunches for business operators ranging from automotive to retail, and for job service agencies, and non-government organisations.
  • A community event where an empty shop was taken over for a day. People were encouraged to pop in and meet people who run literacy support programs, and to engage in fun literacy-related activities. Local radio broadcast from the shop and ran competitions with prizes related to literacy. Volunteers stood at various points in the city centre and talked to people about literacy and 26TEN. About 200 people took part.
  • Plain English workshops for businesses and non-government organisations.
  • The development of an app called 'How to hold the 26TEN chat', which gives tips on raising the subject of literacy with people.
  • Advertisements on local radio stations that reassured listeners that adults can improve their literacy skills and that 26TEN offers an opportunity to get the tools to do this. The ads had a light, humorous style and copies of the audio clips and scripts are available from 26TEN.

What advice can the working group give other 26TEN communities?

Over the 12 months of the project, the number of people in Burnie who asked for support steadily increased. The working group offered these tips for people starting their own community.

  • Make sure you have enough people, time and funds to plan your project well.
  • Be clear about literacy problems in your community and what you're trying to do.
  • Think about who – individuals and groups – you need to work with to really make a difference.
  • Remember that 'word of mouth' works powerfully in small communities.
  • Link literacy to other learning and training initiatives and be ready for increased demand for literacy support programs.