Above image: left to right: Linda McKillop, speech pathologist & Orton-Gillingham master trainer; Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania; Rosie Martin, speech pathologist.

“We’ve been talking about improving the literacy rates for years – has anything changed?!” The clear-thinking Ryk Goddard playing devil’s advocate for me on ABC Breakfasts, asked this question. It is the incisive question from those whose lives don’t revolve around literacy enablement. The change that is happening is not yet big enough. But there is change happening and let’s keep talking about it because we’re on our way to tipping point.

I was on air with Ryk to chat about a week long evidence-based training in reading and writing instruction that our colleague Linda McKillop was presenting in in Hobart in September.

The training was Tasmania’s INAUGURAL Orton-Gillingham Dyslexia & Literacy Training, which SPT hosted in partnership with the Dyslexia Orton-Gillingham Institute – Australia. The participant group was cross-sector, cross-professions, cross-roles. The collegiality, collaboration, non-competition, and empathic storytelling in the room were incredible.

Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania, addressed us on Tuesday morning. She spoke of #100PercentLiteracy for Tasmania.

The language of this aspiration first emerged at a community discussion hosted by Her Excellency in the Vice-Regal home in late 2018 at the initiation of our partners, communication-skills advocacy group Connect42. In early 2019 the Minister of Education, The Honourable Jeremy Rockliff, courageously enshrined this language in policy within the Department of Education’s Literacy Plan for Action – ‘one hundred percent functional literacy’, he wrote in the Foreword.  

So, there is burgeoning, foundational change in awareness, hope and policy aspiration.

Moreover, as a community we have also become aware that there is science to be followed in reading instruction; that it needs to be trained, shared and supported; and that almost everybody can learn to read and write. Only a tiny fraction of Tasmanians may miss these skills – and in every case it is related to severity of brain impairment – which is not that person’s fault! Nor their family’s. It is important for us all to understand, however, that the communication skills of these Tasmanians can always and also be positively supported to 100% of their potential too.

These are all changes that are moving us toward high expectations, courage, and a groundswell of excitement about being part of a movement that will spread flourishing literacy to all our people (we each have our piece of the sky to hold up). They are the shifts that precede the flooding-up of the more visible changes that will come as we continue to collaboratively share knowledge and practice about applying the sciences of building spoken and written language, and fostering thick, abundant trust as we do.

Think ‘capillary action’ from primary school science class.

Aspiration for #100PercentLiteracy, the Literacy Plan for Action and the similar policy frameworks that exist within independent sectors, provide the policy architecture from which to support Tasmania’s literacy-development canvas. And when that canvas is dipped into a saucer of colour – knowledge and passion about how reading and writing are learnt, fidelity to evidenced practice, and untrammeled joy – then the colour floods up: staining and saturating, washing and tinting every individual, right up through the entire social fabric.

Bottom-up work and top-down structure should harmonise. Together they create connection and confidence, capability and capacity.

So, there she stood in front of our diverse group, the Governor of Tasmania: intelligent and humble headship, radiating a vision for Tasmanian relationships and inclusive culture, representing no organisation and no party – representing only the vision of a flourishing Tasmania. She flowed with words of warmth, hope and encouragement about achieving 100% literacy. She flowed directly into the minds and hearts of the gathered group with the passion and grassroots power to achieve it.

Her Excellency brought words of barrier-free collaboration. And she simultaneously caught and amplified the spirit of barrier-free collaboration that was already emergent in the group. This group of passionate Tasmanians were from the Department of Education, Catholic Education Tasmania, Independent Schools and many other private and not-for-profit organisations. But the vision and the talk within the group was as organisation-free and party-free as Her Excellency herself.

It is trust, connection and caring collaboration such as this that will bring Tasmania to #100PercentLiteracy.

Catching this, when I enquired if they might consider joining the celebration and strengthening the collaborative zest, the Minister of Education, the Hon Jeremy Rockliff, the Executive Director of Catholic Education Tasmania, Mr Gerard Gaskin, and the Secretary of the Department of Education, Mr Tim Bullard, also penned words of encouragement to the gathered group. Each one of us witnessed our literacy leaders take the time to commend us for the activity of our learning. We thank them. We need our leaders to help our courage. And they need us to help theirs. It is reciprocal.

And it is just how things should roll: courage, trust, hope, collaboration, knowledge, skill – all in a package together. In 2002, education researchers Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider showed that relational trust is a chief commodity for school improvement and educational attainment. All our activity should amplify trust. It is the enabler through difficult times.

Our group saw relational trust flourish – dissolving barriers and strengthening us all toward collaboratively expanded knowledge and positive change. We are grateful for this.

The social canvas of Tasmanian literacy is poised. Onwards and upwards we flow toward #100PercentLiteracy, shared dignity, equity and opportunity – and enlarged joy of life.

Great question, Ryk! I hope we can chat again in a year – there will be more to tell!


Enjoy the Rogues Gallery. Well… Her Excellency is not a rogue. The rest are. Excellent disruptive rogues for #100PercentLiteracy!