“The benefit for us is not just for the organisation, but for the communities we work with. And at the end of the day that is what matters most.”
– Professor Jack Beetson, Executive Director, Literacy for Life Foundation.
It is believed that more than 40% of Aboriginal adults have low literacy… and in some communities that figure can increase to as high as 70%. The Literacy For Life Foundation (LFLF) was formed in 2013 with the goal to tackle this issue and improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Low literacy can come in many forms… sometimes people can only write their name, or they might have difficulty filling out forms, or reading instructions on a medicine bottle. But whatever the level, literacy is directly linked to education and subsequently the opportunities available to someone in their life. Joe Boughton-Dent from LFLF explains:
“With so many people struggling to read and write in English, it makes it very hard to achieve positive outcomes in areas such as employment, education, community safety and justice.
In particular, it makes it really hard for our students who just want to be able to share books with their children… we know that that’s a huge factor in determining the educational opportunities of children themselves. Starting life with a parent who can read books with them… it helps to get them on the right path from the beginning.”
Innovative international program
LFLF runs community based literacy campaigns that provide positive outcomes… not just for the individual students, but for the entire community. The complete education campaign initially runs for nine months but is continued for as long as needed until the low literacy rates within the community have dropped by 50%.
The innovative teaching method was developed in Cuba and has been successfully implemented in 30 countries around the world. Over 10 million people have increased their literacy capabilities over the past 15 years with this program and here in Australia there are already more than 250 graduates.
Community focused success
Each literacy campaign starts with a demand from the community. Joe discusses the process of setting up a new program:
“Initially we are contacted by someone from within the community. We talk to them about what’s involved and ask them to put together a leadership group from locals… this group is important as they will help the program succeed.
Each time we start in a new community it’s like a start-up business. Because we base everything within that community there’s a lot of tasks involved – finding an office, a classroom, sorting out lunches for students, getting everything set up… plus training and development. Of course, a lot of that work is supported by a team based in Sydney, but we make sure the process is able to scale and be easily replicated.
There is so much potential for this to have a big impact… we have over 100 communities on our waiting list, so we know the demand is there. The results are great… the program has been shown to work for people who have been failed by the education system in the past. Now we just need community, government and business support to take it to the next level.”
Founding members volunteered their time
LFLF had two important founding partners: the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research; and Multiplex, a global construction company. Joe expands on Multiplex’s role:
“When the organisation was first set up, almost everything was done in-kind… through the resources of others. Multiplex helped us set up our finances and made valuable contributions. During these initial stages we were relying on their staff volunteering their time to help us with our accounts. We were very lucky to have their support.
But as we started growing, we got to a point where it was no longer feasible or sustainable for the volunteers to provide the level of focus that we needed to give to our finances. We had to make a decision around how we would build capacity in that area for our organisation.”
The perfect introduction
“Multiplex introduced us to True Accounting, and it immediately allowed us to get our finances fit for purpose. In Indigenous funding and programs there’s a real focus on ensuring value for money. In charities in general, there is a real need to be transparent and accountable, to make sure donation dollars are going where they are meant to.
So, we really needed to be able to live inside our accounts but without taking up all of our time – time which is better spent delivering on the ground. We know we need to be in community, running programs rather than going over receipts or looking at invoices.
The beauty of working with True Accounting is our ability to do things remotely… we can have everyone accessing the Xero platform… of course we need to be able to drive it, but it’s great to have someone show you how to get the best out of it.
That’s certainly what True Accounting has done for us. They’ve taken away any headaches that we’ve had in the past. They set up the system… they run it for us and also keep us heavily involved… but instead of it being a problem, they’ve helped us identify solutions that really work for us.”
Part of the team
“The finances used to take up a lot of time… working in community where things are challenging… making sure you are keeping track of expenses. The local staff need to work with systems that aren’t too onerous for them.”
Working with True Accounting has helped LFLF find ways to complete tasks more efficiently. LFLF recognises that they are getting more work done and at the same time providing transparency and accountability for donors.
The foundation is based on a true partnership and everybody involved in the campaign has the opportunity to feel good about the results… that is only helped when everyone can see what the financial support is achieving. Professor Jack Beetson concludes:
“True Accounting really has been a 100% solution for us! They took the time to learn how our organisation works, then they introduced us to systems that would suit our needs. They helped us set up budgets, all our reporting and also spent time training us… it’s not just a single use service, they’ve very much felt part of our team.”