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Shane is 12 years old and arrived in Ballarat from Glenelg in South Australia six months ago. Shane’s parents have moved a lot over the years, usually because of his father searching for work.

Shane’s dad has recently found some permanent work in Beaufort (not too far from Ballarat). Due to the constant moving Shane’s education has suffered. He found school difficult and was mostly sitting at the back of the class to avoid the teacher’s eye.

About 3 months ago, Shane’s teacher referred him to the ALF and an assessment was made of his literacy and numeracy skills.

Various tests (including the ACER and Schonnell tests) revealed that he was well behind his peers, probably 3 to 4 years behind, having skills more appropriate to a student in year 2 or 3. However, one of the tests (ACER) was done on a computer, and during this test Shane showed the ability to quickly and efficiently operate a keyboard. He proudly told the tutor he played computer games at home. The ALF tutor then showed Shane a number of computer games that the foundation just bought from the USA, which Shane immediately loved! What he didn’t realize was that they were new literacy skills games based around spelling words and reading, but used a racing car game to engage the kids.

Shane quickly became absorbed in these games and has been getting better and better. Unknowingly he was also getting better at his spelling and reading.

About a month later the tutor tried some conventional learning programs and Shane responded well. Now several months later, Shane is at the point of being able to participate in class and is even saying that he quite likes going to school! Mind you he loves telling us that he is now by far the best and fastest at the racing car game at the ALF tutorials!


Cyndy lives with her mum on the outskirts of Skipton in an old rented house. She attended a local primary school, but found it very hard.

Entrenched negative attitudes in the school caused many difficulties for the local indigenous families. Many of the aboriginal families preferred a smaller school a bit further out of town because of its more welcoming atmosphere, but unfortunately this very small school was closed down in the 1990’s. Because of these problems, Cyndy and few other kids started to receive visits from a teacher who drove from Ballarat three times a week and was funded under the ATAS scheme. Unfortunately this scheme was also closed down in 2006 by the Federal Government, and Cyndy’s education was again left waiting for help.

In 2007 the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation decided to call for volunteers to maintain as much of the ATAS program as possible, particularly for those children who had cultural difficulties with the state education system or who were living in remote areas, and in 2009 Cyndy joined this program.

With a complicated family life, Cyndy’s education had suffered quite a bit, but with ALF’s help she progressed well enough to be able to attend Sebastopol Secondary College under an indigenous program.

During her time at school, Cyndy received tutoring at home one afternoon a week, and attended a number of our Literacy & Heritage camps held around Ballarat.

When Cyndy was in year 10 she heard of an opportunity to enter a Certificate II in hairdressing and beauty therapy at the Ballarat School of Mines. At the end of Year 10 she transferred over and by the end of the following year she had a hairdressing apprenticeship in Ballarat. Now Cyndy travels by bus each morning to work and is about to become a qualified hairdresser. Cyndy and her mum both say they couldn’t have done this without the ALF.


Jake is 11 and a half years of age and comes from Wentworth, about 30 kilometres north of Mildura. Wentworth is almost a ghost town with farming around the hamlet falling on bad times years ago. Jake’s family are one of few families that have stayed in town.

With no employment and little money for travel, Jakes attendance at school has almost been non-existent.

At 10 years old Jake and his family were visited by a nurse called Janine, who quickly realized that even at his age Jake had no literacy skills and no knowledge of the alphabet.
Fortunately, Janine was also the local Aboriginal Literacy Foundation tutor, and she soon started working with Jake, providing him with tutorial assistance three afternoons per week. She also gave him access to some literacy games and other software which she was able to bring on her laptop.

Jake was delighted with the games having not had much contact with computers, and learned fast. Within a month he had grasped the alphabet and basic spelling using the phonic method. Two months later he seemed to have learned most of the 72 blended sounds, thanks to a user friendly computer game developed for low socio-economic status children in Chicago.

By the end of the first year of tutoring (and also due to the help of Jake’s aunty) he was reading quite well and demonstrated a Schonell reading age of nine, not too far away from his own age. At that time a new centre for Koori Outdoor Education (KODE) was opening in Mildura, and Janine suggested that if he could get a lift in to town Jake might like to attend.

KODE was developed for indigenous children who find traditional schooling impossibly constraining (particularly being indoors the whole time). Jake now attends at least three times a week and says he loves it!


Joany is 10 years old and lives with her mother, grandmother and uncle at Mt Doran on the edge of the Brisbane Ranges in Victoria.

Joany’s mother used to attend the nearby primary school, but it closed during the economy drives in the 1990’s. It’s a 35 minute drive down the back roads to get to primary school in Bacchus Marsh and Joany’s mum says, “We don’t have the money for petrol and sometimes the car isn’t going anyway”.

About 18 months ago Joany was referred to the ALF by a local social worker, and weekly tutorials were started on Saturdays at Joany’s home.

Tests revealed that Joany’s reading age was about 6 on the Schonnell scale and her spelling was slightly better with the Peters Spelling test. A diagnostic test also revealed that she had a minimum understanding of blended sounds and found 2 syllable words very difficult to understand.

Fortunately, Joany’s grandmother could spell quite well and was willing to help with the tutoring. Worksheets were prepared to develop Joany’s areas of weakness, and each Saturday the ALF tutor would work with Joany and her Gran and gradually Joany’s reading started to improve.

Nine months later Joany had improved to within a year of her chronological peers, and had started to say she might like to try school. A neighbouring family with children offered to drive her down each day, and Joany now says she loves school!