Media releases


24 October 2014

TCAL requests urgent action from Department of Industry over VET-FEE-HELP sign ups

In a letter to the federal Department of Industry today the Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy (TCAL) requested Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane urgently address the issues around unethical practices being used by some brokers and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) enticing adults to sign up to VET-FEE-HELP supported courses.

TCAL request that the Department of Industry:

  • Urgently look into the issue of unscrupulous and unethical practices some brokers and RTOs are using to sign new learners into VET-FEE-HELP supported courses in Tasmania;
  • Make training and employment pathway plans and assessments compulsory for each prospective learner, with the assessment benchmarked to the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and retained as evidence the new learner has the capacity to complete the course; and
  • Require RTOs to set up any laptops and iPads being offered as incentives to the needs of individual learners, and this should be made clear at the time the person signs up.

Steve Cooke, president of TCAL, today called on the federal Department of Industry to take urgent action. “It is simply not good enough that there are brokers still signing people up to VET-FEE-HELP supported courses in Tasmania, when the Department knows about the unscrupulous practices” he said.

TCAL are concerned at the lack of assessment provided by brokers and RTOs to determine a person’s best path into training and employment that can inform their training needs and capacity to complete a course being signed to.  In the state with Australia’s lowest levels of literacy it is essential that foundation courses be offered where required to get people ready to succeed in the higher levels of training that are supported by VET-FEE-HELP scheme.

TCAL requests that such assessments be compulsory for each prospective learner, and benchmarked against the ACSF, with the onus on brokers and RTOs to retain the assessments as evidence that those they sign up have the capacity to complete the training.

Laptops and iPads offered to learners as enticements to sign up for courses need to be set up for individual learners.  They should include all applications and bookmarked links the learner requires to complete the course they have signed for.  It is unacceptable to offer laptops and iPads that have not been set up as they


Media queries are to be directed to: Steve Cooke at, or 0403 832 208


16 October 2014

International adult literacy expert visits Tasmania

Professor Steve Reder, an international adult literacy expert, will be visiting Tasmania this weekend. Steve Reder is a researcher in adult literacy and a Professor at Portland State University in the US. His interests include how adults learn language, and the role of language, literacy, and technology in everyday life.

Professor Reder will be presenting results of a ground-breaking longitudinal study of adult learning, which, over a decade, followed the learning and progress of 1000 young adults in the US who did not complete high school.

The results from this study have shown that literacy continues to develop into adult life after leaving school, and this affects employment and earning opportunities.

The study has also found that age, participation and self-study, and life events all affect post- school literacy development in adults.

The results have far-reaching implications for provision of adult literacy programs in Tasmania. New learning systems are needed that provide clear pathways for adults. Programs that sustain an increased growth in literacy skills are also needed. These changes can raise future levels of employment and earnings of adult learners.

Further, changes in the literacy and numeracy practices of adult learners would be a more effective way to measure short-term program impacts, rather than short-term proficiency gains, such as movement on the Australian Core Skills Framework.

Professor Reder will present his research findings at a public address and discussion jointly sponsored by 26TEN, TasTAFE and the Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy on Saturday 18 October at the Baha’i Centre in Hobart, from 2pm-5pm. Dr Natasha Cica will facilitate the discussion, with Tasmanian Small Business Council president Geoff Fader, Tasmania’s first Social Inclusion commissioner Prof David Adams, Risdon Vale Neighbourhood House co-ordinator and literacy advocate Ann Harrison, economist Dr Paul Blacklow, and former federal MP Dick Adams.


Requests for media interviews with Professor Steve Reder to be sent to Steve Cooke at, or on 0403 832 208. 


15 October 2014

TCAL hosts public discussion on adult literacy

Almost half of all Tasmanian adults are functionally illiterate. Tasmania has Australia’s lowest post- Grade 10 retention rates, and one third of Tasmanian households rely on income support as the main source of household income.

Entrenched generational unemployment, including Australia’s highest levels of youth unemployment at around 20%, low incomes, social isolation, and poor transport options outside the main cities are some of the hallmarks of the bleak economic landscape Tasmania faces. These startling statistics have deep implications for social participation, employment, and personal autonomy. Successive Tasmanian state governments have been unable to break the cycle, which according to Saul Eslake is now a cultural phenomenon.

It is against this backdrop that the Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy is hosting a public discussion on the back of a visit to the state by leading US adult literacy expert Professor Steve Reder. Professor Reder challenges many deeply-held assumptions about the impacts of formal literacy programs and literacy practices.

A panel of Tasmanians will discuss the implications of Professor Reder’s research findings for the Tasmanian context at a public meeting to be held at Hobart’s Baha’i Centre this Saturday, October 18, 2-5pm. Natasha Cica will facilitate the discussion, and the panel includes Tasmania’s first Social Inclusion commissioner Dr David Adams, Tasmanian Small Business Council president Geoff Fader, Risdon Vale Neighbourhood House co-ordinator and literacy advocate Ann Harrison, and former federal MP Dick Adams.

This is an opportunity for Tasmanians to take part in an exciting initiative to start a grassroots, community-led discussion of issues and future directions around adult literacy, and to better understand the various perspectives the panel members bring to the issues.

Tickets to this provocative and stimulating event are available from the TCAL website at

Event details: Baha’i Centre of Learning, Hobart, Saturday 18 October, 2pm-5pm


Media queries are to be directed to: Steve Cooke at, or 0403 832 208