Methadone, Counselling and Literacy: A health literacy partnership for Aboriginal clients

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Stephen Black
Anne Ndaba
Christine Kerr
Brian Doyle


This paper describes a literacy program delivered at the Kirketon Road Centre (KRC), a primary health centre located in Kings Cross, Sydney. KRC was established to meet the health needs of ‘at risk’ young people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs. The literacy program was initiated from within an Aboriginal health group at KRC, following a request from clients in the group. A teacher from Tranby Aboriginal College delivered the literacy program one afternoon every fortnight over a period of approximately one year. This paper is based on recorded and transcribed ‘reflection’ discussions undertaken over several months between the literacy teacher, a KRC counsellor and the researcher immediately following the literacy sessions. Of particular interest is the nature of the literacy program and its pedagogical approach which is based largely on the delivery of popularly themed worksheet exercises. These activities represent in some ways an approach to adult literacy education that we term ‘autonomous’, that is, as a single set of skills generalisable to other life contexts. This pedagogical approach, however, needs to be understood in relation to the social capital outcomes of the course which take into account the complex and varying relationships and networks of the client group. The real value of the course can be seen largely in terms of the social capital outcomes for individual participants.

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Author Biographies

Stephen Black, University of Technology Sydney

Stephen Black is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Research in Learning and Change at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has been researching and teaching in the area of adult literacy for many years, mostly in the vocational education and training sector. His email address is:

Anne Ndaba, Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council, Sydney

Anne Ndaba has worked in the field of adult basic education and academic literacy for over 20 years, with extensive experience teaching Indigenous students. Her email address is:

Christine Kerr, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, NSW

Christine Kerr has worked in the fields of health and education over the past thirty years, with particular emphasis on 'closing the gap'. Her email address is:

Brian Doyle, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, NSW

Brian Doyle is a proud Bardi man working for Kirketon Road Centre for the past six years. In April 2012, Brian was awarded the NSW Aboriginal Health Award: the Gail May Award, for his outstanding contribution to the health of Aboriginal peoples in NSW. Brian's email address is: