Greetings everyone.

First and foremost I would like to thank Rosie Martin for asking me to give my thoughts and ideas regarding the issues in Tasmania surrounding written language skills.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rosie. But before that meeting took place, I recall watching television one day and the story that was being broadcast was about a lady who was nominated for Tasmanian of the Year for her passion to teach people how to read and write, but more importantly how to understand and communicate what they were learning.

These people weren’t just your everyday people, they were different. They were like me – inmates from Tasmania’s Risdon Prison. (Or the Pink Palace as it was known back in the old days).

With all that said, I get to witness – on a daily basis – all walks of life, all ages, but more importantly the 48% of Tasmanians who can’t read and write well enough to manage daily life. Which is probably more noticeable in here compared to the general public – where you might know only one or two people who fit into the category of persons who can’t read or write well.

Sad, but in here it’s the truth.

On any given day you may be approached by another inmate asking how to spell a word that has four or more letters in it, or to fill out a request form on their behalf because they just can’t read or understand what the letters on the piece of A4 mean.

The problem exists, and we can’t just turn a blind eye to it anymore.

I hope 2018 is the year that the power of the people in the power positions make the right decisions and allocate the right funds to the necessary organisations who want to change it for the future of this state, and country, and lead by example.

How can we help?

  • Awareness/ TV.
  • Currently the prison has an education learning program in place but the problem is that it is not compulsory. That makes it an easy option for those that need help to avoid it because they are embarrassed. They feel belittled. But I found that if another inmate is willing to help them they tend to let a barrier wall down enough to engage.
  • More correctional staff should encourage inmates instead of turning a blind eye.
  • More inmates need to be helping others who need it and be supported by correctional staff for their efforts.
  • Peer tutoring that is an in-prison job if you qualify, or if you work within the educational guidelines.

These are just some of my thoughts.

James is a literate man with lived-experience of prison. Here, he writes for the Communicating: The Heart of Literacy initiative – find more at chattermatters.com.au.