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  What Works - The Work Program

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Kura Yerlo Children’s Centre, South Australia

Indigenous readers are achievers

Background | Big Buddies


Kura Yerlo

Kura Yerlo Inc. is a community-managed Aboriginal organisation at Largs Bay in the western part of Adelaide. It provides a wide range of services and programs for the Aboriginal community, including Youth, Family, Elders, Disability, Education, Child Care and Fitness. The building is owned by the Sisters of St Joseph and was an orphanage for many years.

Kura Yerlo Children's Centre is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) under its Multifunctional Aboriginal Children's Services (MACS) program.

In the Kaurna language, Kura Yerlo means 'by the sea'.

Big Buddies

Tina Couzens-Quitadamo and Marcus

Tina Couzens-Quitadamo and Marcus

Tina Couzens-Quitadamo was Childcare Director at Kura Yerlo until taking maternity leave. Here she talks about the positive effects of the pre-literacy program.

We always tried to incorporate literacy activities but the big change came when DECS [the South Australian Department of Education and Children's Services] allocated us a 0.8 teaching position. This was due to our high number of Aboriginal enrolments and consistent attendance.

The position was shared between Melissa Gobell [currently Acting Childcare Director] and I and it has enabled us to focus intensively on literacy learning opportunities and outcomes for Aboriginal three year olds (as DECS required). In our setting we don't exclude the four and five year olds who want to participate but we report to DECS on three year olds. Both Melissa and I saw a need for literacy programs for our children, and consultation with families told us that they saw particular literacy needs as well.

A highlight has been 'Indigenous Readers are Achievers', which is a 'Big Buddy' program. We engaged a couple of hub schools nearby and through our Youth Worker and their Aboriginal education workers, asked some of their Indigenous students to come across once a week and work with small groups of our Aboriginal children on literacy activities.


Melissa Gobell

The visiting students were from Grades 4, 5 and 6 and we organised it so that what they were doing was seen as part of their regular school work. We were able to talk to their teachers about curriculum outcomes and everyone was satisfied that it wasn't just an excuse to get out of school.

They saw that, although their students were going off-site, they were doing meaningful tasks that contributed to their own curriculum outcomes and we were able to map those onto the SACSA [South Australian Curriculum Standards Authority] framework.

So each week the Big Buddies were given a literacy task to go away and work on. They would get an envelope personally addressed to them, and inside would be a short letter telling them about their task for the next week. They felt really special because it was personally addressed to them. They would then usually go over the letter and prepare the work with the AEW or resource teacher in their own school. Then the next week they would bring that back and work with their own little group of children.

We felt that we were extending what has always been a cultural component of Aboriginal families, which is that you have a responsibility to someone younger than yourself. We worked with that idea. And we took it very seriously. Each of the Big Buddies had to sign a commitment contract and they had to write letters about themselves so we could display them in the kindy. Then on the day they first came we pulled the names out of a hat to allocate them to a small group. Sometimes we would change it around a little bit if we felt some of our children particularly shouldn't be together in a small group.


Usually we had four or five groups and each group had four or five children. They'd be spread around the room and a teacher was always there in the background to help out if necessary.

The Big Buddies attended nearly every week and there was hardly anyone who stayed away. And our children couldn't wait! They would be anticipating the sessions, asking 'When does my Big Buddy come? Is it Tuesday yet?' And that in itself gives you a chance to have a literacy-rich conversation about days of the week.

Our kids did little evaluations of what happened. We sat with them and helped them with the evaluation sheet. And we maintain individual maps showing kids progress in literacy.

When people say that Aboriginal children are behind the eight ball in terms of literacy outcomes, we can say 'Look at what we've got happening here!


© Commonwealth of Australia 2020