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Central Government And Adult & Community Education

Building Partnerships To Lift Capacity – Central Government And Adult & Community Education

Address to the Manawatu branch of the Adult and Community Education Association. Open Learning Centre, Palmerston North.


It is a real pleasure to join with you all this afternoon to talk about the work that you are doing. I want to focus on two issues today – one that concerns you as part of the national community of voluntary and community organisations, and one that relates specifically to adult and community education.

The first is the emerging compact or agreement between central government and the community and voluntary sector.

Central government and the community and voluntary sector

The alliance between Government and the community sector has always been important, as has the relationship with the private sector.

As those of us with an involvement in community and adult education know, we live in a rapidly changing world. Globalisation, new technology, family and labour market changes all bring increasingly complex challenges.

And the last decade has seen the growth of splits and schisms in our society. Community and social values that made New Zealand the place it was fell victim to the pursuit of individual success – as 'devil take the hindmost' appeared to become the theme of the 90's.

They also fell victim to an ideological assumption that interests were, by their very nature, vested interests. The assumption was one of capture – provide any point of engagement for any group, and their motivation will be to pursue their own narrow interests at the expense of the common. Staff couldn't possibly be involved in the governance of a tertiary education institution, the community couldn't be involved in the governance of a hospital, local business people couldn't be involved in regional economic development etc etc.

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One of the consequences of this was the run down in what I refer to as civil society. As a social-democratic politician I do not assume accept that Government has all the answers, any more than I believe that the market left to its own devices will cure all ills. But I do believe – both as a matter of political principle, and as an aspect of sound public policy – that in terms of both process and outcomes, what is needed is a partnership between government and community, or state and civil society.

What is required is an acknowledgment of the interdependence of the public, private and community sectors. And that the way of the future lies in mobilising those three sectors to work together for common solutions to common problems.

Further, those solutions need to reflect and be driven by local needs and priorities. Whether we are looking at Maori, Pacific or Pakeha communities the message of 'by community, for community' is being heard loud and clear.

So we require collaborative endeavours but ones which reflect local strengths and needs.

A modern welfare society is built on the same principles, Government (central and local), employers, unions, and communities working together – creating jobs, building vibrant and inclusive communities, making sure citizens have the skills and abilities to participate, ensuring that support is available for the sick and vulnerable.

Making this strategic alliance a reality means challenging some of the ways in which government and community, or the state and civil society have engaged with each other.

For example, over the last decade governments adopted contracting models that might have been well suited to the private sector and then tried to apply them wholesale to the community sector.

Contracts can be a great mechanism for the State to make something happen. But misapplied they can be a dreadful system that ratchets up compliance costs and stifles innovation and flexibility. Moreover the issue is not simply one of the misapplication of an instrument – for those of a neo-liberal or new right persuasion, the relationship between the state and whatever vestiges of civil society are deemed to be necessary becomes reduced down to a contract.

One of the greatest strengths of the community sector is that it operates close to the grass roots and is therefore able to respond quickly and flexibly to emerging community needs. Tie the sector up in red tape and you crush the very attribute that you were wanting to foster in the first place.

The contribution of the community and voluntary sector

This Government recognises that a vibrant, thriving and diverse community / voluntary sector is a critical component in the maintenance of a vibrant, thriving, cohesive society.

And the sector contributes to our society in many ways:

Firstly, the community / voluntary sector provides citizens with opportunities to participate in and enrich the life of their community. Whether people choose to be involved in care for the elderly, a local sports club, or a myriad of other activities, the simple act of participation is a powerful vote for a more active and inclusive community. In this way the community and voluntary sector can be seen as the glue which binds communities together. Citizens benefit because they feel part of a group or community, New Zealanders all benefit because our communities are stronger.

Secondly, the community / voluntary sector provides a voice for the voiceless. The sector can powerfully articulate the views of those in society who otherwise may feel isolated or marginalised. We all benefit because decision-makers are better informed of the needs of groups within society who might otherwise be overlooked through traditional consultation processes.

Thirdly, the community / voluntary sector is a major provider of services. These range from services which Government directly purchases, such as Iwi Social Services working with children at risk, to services that communities value but with which the state does not directly involve itself, such as the local bowling club – but which the State supports through charitable status.

Nor should anyone underestimate the scale or power of the sector.

In the month prior to Census night 96' it is estimated that some 1.1 million New Zealanders had undertaken some form of voluntary unpaid work.

There are some 60,000 community organisations in New Zealand.

And the sector is a major actor in the economy, with some $1.3 billion dollars a year being provided in about equal proportions by Government agencies and other funding streams such as lotteries, private and corporate donations and bequests.

As I have said, this Government acknowledges both the importance of the sector and that the relationship between the state and civil society has been the victim of a quite conscious and premeditated neglect during the term of the last administration.

So it was with great pleasure that I launched the Community and Voluntary sector working party last month.

The Community and Voluntary Sector Working Party

Dorothy Wilson, the former Deputy Mayor of Waitakere city council, chairs the working party which includes seven community representatives and three senior public servants.

The membership of the working group reflects the diversity of the sector; members are drawn from around the country and together represent a vast pool of experience in the community and voluntary sector. Maori and pacific people are well represented on the group as are grass roots experts and those with expertise in not for profit management and the academic disciplines.

The commitment of the community and voluntary sector to improving the relationship was evidenced by the fact that over 300 applications were received to join the group. This of course means that some people will have been disappointed, though we are committed to tapping into their expertise as proposals are developed – just as we are committed to ensuring that consultation taps into groups such as this one today.

This is a very significant undertaking. In essence the working party has been charged with producing a document that will establish a new foundation for the relationship.

This is no symbolic exercise. The group will explore concrete ways to improve the relationship and then consult with the sector on their recommendations.

What might these concrete proposals be?

If we look at the Canadian, United Kingdom and Australian developments in this area we get a clear idea of some of the issues we too will have to address.

A partnering relationship is built on shared understanding of common aims and valuing of different roles, responsibilities and strengths.

In this case one of our shared aims is to 'increase the quality of life of all New Zealanders' – and that means increasing the opportunities for people to participate in the life of their community and country.

Or as the English Compact puts it: 'voluntary and community activity is fundamental to the development of a democratic, socially inclusive society.'

The English Compact then goes on to define the shared principles that drive the relationship and the specific undertakings of both Government and the sector.

In New Zealand I believe that we would have to address areas such as:

Issues in relation to Maori: including the relationship of Maori traditional structures of care, community governance and support to any agreement formed with Government. The Maori community sector has distinct features that must be recognised, as must the overarching relationship framework provided by the Treaty.

Recognition of the independence of the sector: - Providers will well remember the then Associate Minister Dr Nick Smith threatening to cut off funding to the three social service umbrella groups after they published reports critical of Government policy. Unlike that administration we realise the value of an independent sector, including the right of organisations to promote alternative policy positions, whether or not these are compatible with Government's position.

Measures to lower compliance costs – perhaps including rationalisation of funding arrangements, accountability mechanisms, or approvals regimes. I would hope that the grants versus contracts issue will also be addressed.

Consultation and involvement in policy development:- establishing clear expectations for consultation and involvement in policy development.

Issues in relation to charitable status and registration.

Promotion of volunteering: - consideration of how a culture of volunteering can be promoted. A number of providers have already suggested to me that as more women, the traditional backbone of the voluntary sector, are entering paid employment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good volunteers. This suggests a need to target other sections of the community as potential volunteers including the recently retired, the unemployed and the youth population.

Some people have of course questioned why a working group is required – couldn't Government just get on and fix the problem?

The answer is simple. If we are talking about a partnering relationship between the Government and the sector then the process, problem identification and recommended solutions must reflect a partnering approach. You do not rebuild trust, and you cannot restore the relationship by imposing a centrally determined solution, no matter how worthy the motivation.

We should not underestimate the significance of this initiative.

The expectations of the sector are huge, and we know you will be watching developments closely.

So nothing less than a sea change in the relationship will do.

Nothing less will satisfy the Government either.

We are passionate about building a better New Zealand, which means healthy, inclusive and economically strong communities, and that requires a robust community voluntary sector.

It also means building the individual and community capacity that will allow individuals to realise their potential and that will re-build the fabric of civil society. That means a commitment to adult and community education.
Adult and Community Education

As you will all be aware this is Adult Learners’ Week, He Tangata Matauranga. Adult Learners Week is a UNESCO worldwide annual celebration that recognises the efforts, achievements and contributions of adult learners, educators and providers.

This year, Adult Learners Week incorporates the United Nations International Literacy Day. Today, the 8th of September, is that day, and I am pleased to be here today marking it with people who know the value of literacy, and who have done so much to empower others by participating in the teaching of literacy and numeracy. We should celebrate those achievements, and we should reflect on what is yet to be done.

My friend and colleague Lianne Dalziel is the Associate Minister of Education with responsibility for adult and community education. She is someone who is passionate about it, and I am absolutely confident that she will build the kinds of partnerships that will enable the sector to flourish.

For my part, as the Minister responsible for tertiary education, I am committed to working closely with her. You may be aware that the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission has released its first report – 'Shaping a Shared Vision: Strategy, Quality, Access'. Let me quote the first two conclusions that are advanced in that report.

Conclusion 1:

A broad definition of the knowledge society should be adopted in the development of policy for tertiary education. This would include a recognition of the potentially valuable contributions of all forms of knowledge.

Conclusion 2:

The tertiary system should be broadly defined to encompass all formal and non-formal learning outside of the school system.

There are some that are not particularly comfortable with this definition – indeed I have heard some people complaining that, under this definition, 'training' someone to make a hamburger could be included. Perhaps they've never had a bad hamburger – perhaps they fail to appreciate that training in what may appear to be relatively basic tasks teaches people how to learn, and staircases with more advanced learning.

But in advancing this broader definition the TEAC is making the point that we shouldn't place inappropriate limitations on the scope of post compulsory education. This is what they have to say in their report:

"The Commission has chosen … to take the view that tertiary education should be broadly defined. This definition includes learning at all levels within public tertiary institutions (ie polytechnics, universities, colleges of education, and wananga), programmes provided by private and government training establishments, business-based education, industry training, and all lifelong learning beyond the compulsory school system. It thus includes both formal and non-formal education, and what is often termed 'second chance' education. Embracing those diverse forms of education and training is particularly important if the challenges of promoting lifelong learning and designing a tertiary education system that contributes to the knowledge society are to be taken seriously"

I include this to make the point that we shouldn't fall victim of the tendency to pigeonhole different types of education. This is not to suggest that adult and community education is not deserving of attention in its own right. It is, and it is right and proper that its status and importance is reflected in the fact that, like tertiary education (of which it is one part) it has a Minister with specific responsibility for it. But its separate and distinct personality should not be seen as in any way indicative of a difference in status.

When we talk of Pathways and Networks  the name of our policy on Adult Education and Community Learning  we are not only talking about the links between the formal and the informal education sectors, personal development in the broadest sense, and the links to employment opportunities, but also the ability to inform community development and support social well-being.

This is reflected in the diversity of organisations that make up this sector, from WEAs, to REAPs, to People’s Centres, Women’s Centres, ESOL providers, Literacy programmes, unions, marae, community houses or resource centres…the list goes on.

In many respects it is this sector that represents life-long learning in its most complete sense.

Despite the positive and highly valued contribution of adult education and community learning to this Government’s social and economic goals, this area of education and learning has developed in a haphazard manner over a long time.

Current support for adult education and community learning is delivered through a range of mechanisms, and as a result lacks a coherent and integrated structure.

There is little flexibility in funding arrangements, measuring achievements within the sector is often inappropriate or non-existent, and there is little scope for provider development and the ongoing professional development of teachers and tutors in the sector.

This Government is seeking a much more collaborative and co-operative education sector in which a sense of partnership is developed, and that is what we want to encourage in the world of adult education and community learning.

The Working Group on Adult Education and Community Learning

The working group on Adult Education and Community Learning has now been established and the breadth of experience that the working group represents excites me.

This working group will be working on a blueprint for action that will advise the Government on the formal recognition and resourcing of this sector.

The working group is chaired by Mary-Jane Rivers, who has had extensive experience in government management and voluntary and community sector work, and as a facilitator and chair of working groups and community consultation.

Joining Mary Jane are 11 others who also have experience within this sector.

Judi Altinkaya is the national co-ordinator of the National Association of ESOL Home Tutor Schemes and an executive member of the Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations.

John Benseman is a senior lecturer in Adult Education at the University of Auckland.

Moira Lawler has been extensively involved in outreach and community education, has been in the NGO field since 1984 and is the author of Literacy Schooling and Revolution.

Alofa Lale is Pacific Liaison Officer at Victoria University. She brings to the group direct experience of working with adult Pacific peoples, students and the personal experience of teaching and community group involvement in Pacific communities.

Dorothy McGray has been involved in community education in New Zealand for more than 20 years. She is a trustee of the National Resource Centre for Adult Education and Community Learning and is currently tutor/co-ordinator of the Waitakere Workers' Educational Association.

Sandy Morrison is from the Centre for Continuing Education at Waikato University and many of you here tonight will probably know her.

Katherine Peet is from, Christchurch, and has more than 20 years experience in the community and education fields. She has served both the ACEA and the Federation of Workers' Educational Associations.

Sean Regan is also from Christchurch and is the executive officer of Community Education at Hagley Community College. He is currently serving his second term as president of the Community Learning Association through Schools (CLASS).

Ngarau Tarawa is a Community Education Organiser in Taumarunui. She has had more than 10 years experience working in Maori community education and Iwi development work.

The final two are Di Wilkinson, who is the community education officer for the Tararua Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP) and who has lived and worked in rural areas all her life, and Bronwyn Yates, who is currently Te Tumuaki of Literacy Aotearoa. She is also currently a trustee of the National Resource Centre of Adult Education and Community Learning.

So it can be clearly seen the wealth of Adult Education and Community Learning experience that is brought to this working group. They have been selected to bring a mix of skills and experience to the Working Group.

Terms of Reference for the Working Group

I would like to discuss briefly the terms of reference for this group.

Key tasks for the Working Group will be:

 To provide a working definition of the adult education and community learning sector and the range of providers within it;
 To define a set of objectives or expectations for the adult education and community learning sector;
 To advise how those objectives contribute to the key education objectives;
 To consider how the sector might contribute to the adult literacy strategy;
 It will advise how the sector will also contribute to Closing the Gaps between Maori and Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders;
 To consider how the Adult Education and Community Learning sector will work in with other organisations to contribute to other relevant Government goals and objectives;
 To suggest priorities for action
 To identify some key measures of achievement, or indicators of progress towards identified objectives for the sector;
 to develop options for effective accountability and quality assurance mechanisms in the sector;
 to define the roles of the various providers and the nature of the relationships between them,
 to advise of ways to build more effective partnership between the providers
 to define the roles and responsibilities of national organisations in the sector;
 to develop effective communication with TEAC, the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission and develop a process for providing advice on Adult Education and Community Learning
 to advise on options for effective local input to planning and delivery and
 to advise on ways to achieve greater credibility and recognition for non-formal education undertaken in the sector.

In addition a close relationship will be developed with the development of the agreement framework between Government and the community and voluntary sector which I have already talked about.

So, while it's an extensive list of tasks this group will have to undertake, I am confident that at the end of the process, we will have developed a sound policy to take this sector forward.

In fact, the Group has already had its first meeting and it is now to meet regularly until around February 2001. At the end of that month, Lianne Dalziel expects to see the first report on her desk.


In conclusion, thank you for inviting me to speak to you about the community and voluntary sector agreement, and about the Government's plans to work with you on adult and community education issues.

Adult education and community learning has an important contribution to make to New Zealand’s social and economic development. To realise the full potential of this sector, however, it is vital that we formally recognise, organise and effectively fund the provision of adult education and community learning in this country.

I know that this is Lianne's commitment. And I want to say to you today, as her Ministerial friend and colleague, and as the Member of Parliament for Palmerston North, that it is one that I share with her.

Thank you.

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