In Australia, we don't know how many adults struggle to read and write, according to advocates the last comprehensive study was published 10 years ago.
"Part of the problem is because there's not a lot of information about it, a lot of these people think they're the only person," Wollongong adult literacy trainer Liz Elliott said.
"You're not alone. There are other people like you who are having a go."
The most recent comprehensive survey was published by the OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2013, although the survey was conducted 2011-2012.
That study found about 44 per cent of Australians read at a low literacy level.
It is understood Australia is not participating in the current 2022-2023 OECD international study which is administered every 10 years.
Of the 24 OECD countries that participated in 2013, Australia and the Russian Federation are the only nations to drop out of the 2022-2023 survey.
This means Australia cannot compare how literacy rates have changed since 2013 or how we compare to other countries, President of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy, Jo Medlin said.
The OECD 2013 Australian study did not capture data on regional and remote Aboriginal communities.
The Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor said the federal government has commissioned Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) to deliver a national survey to measure adult literacy, numeracy, and digital skills.
"Due to the inaction of the former government no comprehensive data was collected during the life of the former government and that is why in our first budget we funded JSA to undertake the study," Mr O'Connor said.
It is understood the national survey will be conducted in 2025 and published in early 2026.
The Manager of the Reading Writing Hotline Vanessa Isles said there is a major lack of data for remote and First Nations communities.
"It affects Australia's ability to map, understand and respond effectively to LND [adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy] needs and demands in partnership with First Nation's communities," Ms Isles said.
She said data needs to be collected as one step to addressing "centuries of systematic educational disadvantage for First Nations communities".
It also needs to be accessible and not assume people will have access to the internet, or devices or have the literacy levels to fill out the survey independently, Ms Isles said.
In the Illawarra region, south of Sydney there has been a steady increase in people seeking support for literacy, according to WEA Illawarra.
Since 2020, 12 per cent of the callers to the Reading and Writing Hotline in the region are from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background.
Most callers (78 per cent) are from an English-speaking background and went to high school (70 percent completed year 10 and 14 per cent completed year 12).
"The majority are actually kids who've been to school in Australia and have just fallen through the cracks basically somewhere along the line," WEA Illawarra adult literacy trainer, Liz Elliott said about her students.
As an advocacy body Ms Medlin said without the data it's difficult to enact change such as imploring organisations to write their forms in plain English.
Easy-to-read information is important for various government messaging including the Voice to Parliament.
"If you can't understand the messaging that's coming out of government or anywhere else then how can you engage effectively with it and have the opportunity to think critically about it and form your own informed opinion?" Ms Medlin said.
"We advocate for it because it's very empowering for people to be able to engage with texts and make their own decisions about things rather than relying on other people to interpret things for them."
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