Working in Indigenous literacy can be ‘pure magic’ according to NT Government Literacy and Numeracy Projects Training Officer Emily Davies.
To celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day, we spoke to Emily about her role visiting schools in the Katherine region, the challenges she faces and the joy of helping Indigenous students to read.
Where do you work?
I work for the Department of Education NT as part of the Literacy and Numeracy Project team which is part of the Indigenous Education Review.
What is your role?
I am a Literacy and Numeracy Essentials Trainer. I go out to all the remote Indigenous schools in the Katherine region, which includes 26 schools with the furthest school being 773km away from Katherine. My role is to support teachers and principals to improve the literacy and numeracy of their students. This may include support in planning and assessment, modelling, team teaching and observations. It also includes supporting the Read Write INC phonics program.
What is the best part about working in Indigenous literacy?
“Working in indigenous literacy is the most rewarding job I have had.”
I work with students and teachers that have struggled to make progress in the past or have come to a road block. I love working with classrooms to overcome challenges and help students to succeed and make continual progress. This progress can become more rapid and exciting for these students when they don’t see it too often.
What are the main challenges you face in Indigenous literacy?
There are countless challenges. The language barrier can be a big and frustrating one. Teacher turnover makes it very difficult to make continue progress when we are constantly starting again. In my job, location is a challenge so it’s lucky I love driving!
What improvements could be made in the way we approach Indigenous literacy?
We need to be putting students in the centre. There is so much policy and red tape that is stopping teachers do what is best for their students.
“These students are so unique and have unique needs that should never be compared to the rest of Australia.”
This is why I love Read Write INC phonics. It doesn’t look at how old you are or what you can’t do. It works for all students, even older teenagers that are struggling to learn, and it doesn’t compare them to early years students. It just helps teachers to do their job and teach.
Do you have any anecdotes about your experiences?
I am often told that once students get older, ‘it’s too late’ and programs are introduced to teach them how to function with low literacy in society. With a hard working school and teacher, I have seen huge progress in literacy using early years strategies, with a high level of trust established.
“I now see older students excited to read fairy tales to me and to read to each other. This is pure magic.”
What is the future in Indigenous literacy?
This will depend a lot on what the future policies will look like. I am seeing very small progress, but in a lot of places the overall progress is often going backwards because of the students’ difficult lives going on around them. So much needs to be done to see a change.