Keynote Speakers

Alan Attwood

Alan Attwood was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia with his family when he was four. He has worked as an abalone packer, dishwasher, schoolbook salesman and mail sorter, but mainly as a journalist, specialising in not specialising. In a career spanning over three decades he has written for publications ranging from The Sunday Times, London, to Time magazine and covered events as diverse as the first free elections in South Africa, soccer in northern Greece, political intrigue in Morocco, a US Presidential campaign and four Olympic Games.

Between 1995-98 he was the New York-based correspondent for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Newspapers. He won a Walkley Award for coverage of Sport in 1998 and subsequently was a columnist for The Age. He is also the author of two published novels, Breathing Underwater and Burke’s Soldier. Since November 2006 he has been Editor of The Big Issue magazine, the national, independent publication sold by street vendors throughout Australia.

Kathryn Shugg

Foundation Skills for the Future

Kathryn Shugg, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

In recent years, there has been an increasing focus in Australia on improving adult foundation skills, particularly English language, literacy, numeracy and employability skills. Improving the foundation skills of adult Australians is fundamental to achieving the Government’s productivity, participation and social inclusion agendas. Additional funding has therefore been allocated to new foundation skills measures through the last two Federal Budgets. State and territory governments are also committed to improving foundation skills and some have committed significant additional investment over the last couple of years. A range of strategic policy initiatives are also being implemented nationally to help overcome systemic barriers.

In her presentation, Kathryn Shugg will discuss the work that is underway at a national level, the context in which it is being progressed and the challenges we face now and into the future.

Kathryn Shugg is the Branch Manager of the Foundation Skills Branch, in the Skills Group of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and has been in this role since June 2010. In this position she is responsible for implementing a range of policy and program responses aimed at improving the foundation skills of adult Australians, including a suite of complementary programs targeted at key cohorts and tailored to their specific needs: the WELL Program; the Language Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP); the Australian Apprenticeships Access Program; Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) Practitioner Scholarships Program; and Foundation Skills Taster Course Program. Prior to her current role, Kathryn was the Branch Manager of the DEEWR Indigenous Early Childhood Branch. Kathryn is passionate about LLN and brings with her extensive experiences in the policy and program arenas. She has been in the public service since 1983 and has worked on a number of key policy and program initiatives in portfolios including FAHCSIA, PM&C and Attorney General’s.

Robin Shreeve

Skills for Prosperity and improving Foundation Skills

Robin Shreeve, Chief Executive of Skills Australia

Australia is in a very fortunate position of strong overall economic growth and low unemployment. As a result, Australia is facing a challenge to meet the skills needs of the resources boom.

On 3 May 2011, Skills Australia launched the “Skills for Prosperity: a Roadmap for Vocational Education and Training” report recommending a range of actions to ensure the nation is able to provide the vocational education and training needs of the future workforce, particularly raising workforce participation levels through up-skilling existing workers and boosting foundation skills.

The Skills for Prosperity report also puts forward recommendations that will create a simpler system aspiring to excellence through providing diverse and relevant learning products and services as well as enabling effective skill use and productivity.

In his presentation Robin will provide an overview of how Skills Australia will work with industry and the vocational education sector to improve education and employment options into the future.

Robin Shreeve has worked in the skills sector for more than 30 years in Australia and England. He is currently the Chief Executive of Skills Australia. Skills Australia is an independent advisory body advising the Australian Government on workforce development and workforce skill needs. Prior to this appointment Robin was Principal of the City of Westminster College, a multi campus Further Education institution located in central London.

From 1989 to 2005 Robin worked for the Department of Education and Training in New South Wales Australia. There he was Deputy Director-General for Technical, Further and Community Education (TAFE). From 1995 to 2000 he was Director (Principal) of the North Coast Institute of Technical and Further Education in northern New South Wales.

Keiko Yasukawa

Adult literacy and numeracy as social practices: What does this mean for pedagogy?

Stephen Black & Keiko Yasukawa, University of Technology Sydney

The conceptualisation of literacy and numeracy as social practices has been developing strongly in academic domains for the past twenty or more years, and yet it has generally failed to gain traction in adult literacy and numeracy policy and pedagogy. The dominant discourse on adult literacy and numeracy remains one of ‘deficit’ and ‘crisis’. The ALLS surveys tell us how many Australians lack literacy and numeracy skills; employer groups claim poor productivity and poor safety in the workplace are the result of workers lacking literacy and numeracy skills; teachers in vocational education ‘screen’ their students for literacy and numeracy problems, and then send off those ‘in need’ to special classes in order for them to ‘catch up’. A social practices approach shifts the debate away from individuals having deficits and draws on people’s everyday literacy and numeracy practices. A social practices approach leads to a pedagogy for change rather than a pedagogy for the status quo.

In their presentation, Stephen and Keiko will draw on evidence from the literature and from their own current research on literacy and numeracy support in VET, to make the case for a social practices approach to pedagogy.

Keiko Yasukawa is a lecturer in adult education at the University of Technology Sydney. She started her career in pure mathematics where she completed her doctorate. Since then her career has deviated into more 'impure' domains, including work in the Engineering faculty where she taught critical numeracy and literacy to engineering students and in the Adult Education program where she works currently.

She coordinates and teaches in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in adult literacy and numeracy. Keiko has been researching in the areas of critical numeracy and mathematics, adult literacy and numeracy teaching practices, and the social studies of mathematics. She is currently completing a research project on integrated literacy and numeracy support in VET with Stephen Black. Keiko is a member of the editorial team of Literacy and Numeracy Studies, Vice-President of ACAL and President of the NSW Adult Literacy and Numeracy Council.

Stephen Black

Stephen Black is currently a researcher in the Centre for Research in Learning and Change at the University of Technology, Sydney. Previous to this he was a head teacher of adult basic education in TAFE NSW for more than 20 years. He first began work in adult literacy and numeracy as a ‘remedial’ teacher in NSW prisons in 1980, and he has worked and researched in the field ever since that time.

His research has focused on the role of literacy and numeracy in the lives of many groups of people, including prisoners, TAFE students, local council workers, and community groups learning about health. His PhD thesis Literacy as critical social practice, and much of his research has challenged the dominant constructions of literacy and numeracy represented in mainstream policy discourse. One of his current research interests focuses on integrated literacy and numeracy support in VET courses. Stephen is a member of the Executive of the NSW Adult Literacy & Numeracy Council and a member of the editorial team of the international journal, Literacy and Numeracy Studies.