Many people find it hard to believe that one in two Tasmanians don’t have the reading, writing or maths skills to get by in everyday life. But just like any long-term problem, getting people talking leads to better understanding and eventual action.

Turn your thoughts to recent media campaigns that raise awareness about hidden issues in our society including mental health and domestic violence. Beyond Blue, White Ribbon and Stay Chatty campaigns come to mind. They are effective. Mental illness, for example, no longer holds the same stigma in our society.

26TEN, Tasmania’s campaign for adult literacy and numeracy in Tasmania, is similar to these campaigns. Getting people talking isn’t enough. 26TEN seeks to build a society where those with good literacy and numeracy skills help those who don’t. Collectively, we must take action. This is when real change happens, benefitting all. 26TEN is developing a network of passionate organisations and individuals all working towards the common goal of lifting the literacy and numeracy levels here in our State.

There is no better cause. The benefits are great for all Tasmanians. Workplaces become more productive. Health outcomes improve. Employment opportunities increase. And children grow up in households where learning and education is valued, tackling that intergenerational poverty cycle. Working together, we lift the resilience and wellbeing of our community.

Governments alone cannot tackle this problem. Everyone needs to help, just like in any campaign. This long-term problem needs to be addressed from a variety of angles. While 26TEN focuses on adults, let’s get behind a push to ensure that everyone gets the literacy and numeracy support they need despite their age or circumstance.

It is worth recognising that Tasmania leads the way in tackling literacy and numeracy with its use of this approach compared with other Australian states. Consecutive Tasmanian governments and our political parties have all recognised this. So let’s all get behind this campaign as it is unacceptable to do nothing about that statistic.

Sue Costello has worked in government, community and education sectors. She has a history of helping young people and is passionate about the importance of education as an enabler to enriching lives. Returning recently to her birthplace in Hobart, Sue is now managing 26TEN’s strategy to improve the adult literacy and numeracy levels of all Tasmanians. Here Sue writes for the Communicating: The Heart of Literacy initiative – find more at

Something to think about: How do we start the conversation so that people get the help they need?