Open Letter to New Federal Education Committee Chair re: Inquiry

2 11 2010

To Amanda Rishworth, MP, SA,

Chair of the Federal Standing Committee on Education and Employment

Dear Ms Rishworth,

Congratulations on your appointment as chair of the new House Committee on Education and Employment.

As you are no doubt aware, the previous education committee has this year conducted an extensive Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians which received 382 submissions from tertiary training institutions, departments of education, parents groups, unions, school library associations, library associations, principals’ associations, teachers’ associations, overseas experts, management systems providers, publishers, authors, the Children’s Book Council, university librarians, and individual parents, teachers and teacher librarians.

Hearings were held in every territory and state capital.  The time and effort which the previous committee put into this inquiry was extraordinary, coming at a crucial time to address the decline of our profession.

The inquiry was initiated by Julia Gillard when she was Education Minister.  She and her government need to see the results and recommendations of the committee now more than ever. Australian students do not receive equitable school library services, funding or staffing, across the states and territories.  Recent surveys have shown that staffing of school libraries with qualified teacher librarians varies from 100% in NSW to 13% of Victorian primary schools to 5% of schools in the NT. Too many of the 3200 new or refurbished BER libraries will not have qualified teacher librarians.

Yet, the Federal Inquiry took evidence of over 60 studies internationally confirming that dual qualified teacher librarians make a difference to student literacy and learning. Reading scores rise. Students read more.  Their writing and spelling and vocabulary improve. Academic results improve regardless of socio-economic considerations. They learn the skills of information literacy for digital and other resources.

This inquiry was partly in response to 1600 petitioners who signed a petition requesting the federal government to take a role, as it has in the past, to ensure

“…. that all Australian primary and secondary students have access to a school library and a qualified teacher librarian.

As it has done in the past, the federal government is in a position to influence state school library funding and staffing. To do this, they can:

  • collect national data on school library staffing, funding, and scheduling;
  • tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services;
  • require that literacy programs and other national curricula should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success;
  • develop national school library standards;
  • increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.”

This petition has now been signed by over 2700 petitioners and can be viewed at

We teachers, parents, librarians and school library supporters look forward to hearing from you that the Inquiry Report will be completed as soon as possible and tabled before the House this year.

All Australian students deserve 21st century schools staffed by 21st century professionally qualified teacher librarians.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Georgia Phillips


The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia

Submission from The Hub to the Inquiry is #104 at




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