“He was learning to read, but he wasn’t learning to live”: Socially inclusive learning in a community setting

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Greg Marston
Jeffrey Johnson-Abdelmalik


People with mental health problems, learning difficulties and poor literacy and numeracy are at risk of social exclusion, including homelessness. They are often disconnected from the formal education systems, with few opportunities for education and employment. Academic research has demonstrated a link between literacy and numeracy and social connectedness, however the pathways to enact this are not well understood. This paper presents insights into how a community based adult literacy program in Brisbane, Australia provides a successful model of socially inclusive learning. The paper is based on a 12-month action research project conducted by the Queensland University of Technology in conjunction with Anglicare Southern Queensland 2013-2014. The methodology for the project was qualitative in nature, involving participant observation of lessons, and semi-structured interviews with former and present students, volunteer tutors and the teacher.  The central research focus was how literacy education can act as an instrument of social connection to the community.

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Author Biographies

Greg Marston, Queensland University of Technology

Greg Marston is a Professor of Social Policy, in the School of Public Health and Social Work, at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. His current research focuses on poverty and economic insecurity, street-level policy practice and welfare subjectivities. greg.marston@qut.edu.au

Jeffrey Johnson-Abdelmalik, Queensland University of Technology

Jeffrey Johnson-Abdelmalik is a Senior Researcher with the School of Public Health and Social Work, at Queensland University of Technology. His research interests are in social policy and nonprofit organisations of the welfare sector. johnsonam@iprimus.com.au