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Launch of the National Year of Reading: Speech, Canberra



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L aunc hof th e National Y ear of R eading, Canb erra

TUE 14 FEB RUARY2012

Prime Minister

Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to be here this morning with my ministerial colleagues Simon and Peter.

B ut there are more of us here than that - I’d like to particularly acknowledge my parliamentary colleague Dick Adams, who is with us. Dick is someone who learned to read in adult life and I think he is a terrific ambassador for our nation on what it means to become a reader when you are an adult. Thank you for being here Dick.

We’re also joined by local members for the ACTGai B rodtmann and Andrew Leigh, by K ate Lundy, my Parliamentary Secretary.

We’re joined to by Graeme Innes, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, by Margaret Allen, Chair of the National Y ear of Reading Founding Partners, by William McInnes, who has spoken to you, by National Y ear of Reading Ambassadors and many other distinguished guests and friends.

Anne Marie -it’s lovely to be back here.

Since I was here for the Literary Awards, the National Library has opened the blockbuster exhibition of treasures from the State Library of B erlin and a permanent gallery of our own literary treasures.

B ut really the greatest treasure of all is this National Library’s wonderful staff and I know we’ve got some in numbers here with us this morning.

This is the home of books and reading for our nation and so it’s always a delight to be here.

And I’m also delighted to be back here sharing a stage with B oori Monty Pryor, one of the winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards from 2011.

B oori is a great children’s author.

And as an Indigenous Australian, his presence is also a reminder that story-telling has been part of life on this continent for millennia, and so today I honour the First Peoples of this land on which we meet with great warmth and friendship.

I also acknowledge J ennifer B yrne, who I think has got possibly the best gig on television, though I’d say potentially the second best gig is being David or Margaret on the movie show. How good a job would that be?

Margaret, you know I’m very envious of it, but I’m also very envious of J ennifer’s job.

J ennifer is bringing reading to Australians in a new way through the power of TV.

Friends, we are all here for one reason and that’s because we love books and we want all our fellow Australians to do the same.

Over the holidays, I was delighted to able to be able to immerse myself in a wide range of books.

I particularly loved being transported to the 1920s in the pages of Frank Moorhouse’s Grand Days, a modern masterpiece.

I know for many Australians, getting to read a book means reading a Tim Winton or Peter Carey and we all share that sense of anticipation when a new one comes out. We just want to grab it.

It also means reading or re-reading classics like J ane Austen or Charles Dickens, and if you want a tip, if you ever want a conversation on Austen, Tanya Plibersek is your woman.

For others it is contemporary writing, or maybe it’s a great magaz ine like The B ig Issue, and I’ve been able to pick up a copy today. The B ig Issue doing so much for social justice and social inclusion.

Of course the way we read varies too, for some it means B raille or audio books.

It could be a tablet -but I’d have to say given I have my Cabinet documents on an iPad, I don’t read for pleasure using one. I like the book, it enables you to read it in the bath, I’m always worried about taking the iPad anywhere near the water and you also have that delicious sense when you finished it that it’s telling the story of your reading through the pages, particularly through splashed pieces of mango and the like over summer.

So I like to have a book as an artefact, but it doesn’t really matter how you read, it just matters that we do.

I want Australia to be many things: a prosperous nation, an innovative nation, but I certainly want us to be a reading nation.

It’s true we have a strong record of buying and borrowing books in this country, but there are many gaps, too many gaps in our efforts.

Around 4.5 million working-age Australian adults don' t have the high level of core, literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed at work or study.

Now illiteracy is a tragedy, it’s as simple as that.

A tragedy compounded by the fact that it is so unnecessary.

In a rich country like ours with universal education, we can do better.

To be able to read is a form of enfranchisement just like having the vote.

It’s a passport to full participation in the life of the community and I want every Australian to know the joy and pleasure that comes from books and reading.

I want them to get all of the practical benefits too.

So I welcome the National Y ear of Reading and I am delighted the Australian Government has been able to support it.

Page 1 of 2 Launch of the National Year of Reading,Canberra | Prime Minister of Australia

24/10/2012 http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/launch-national-year-reading-canberra

The National Y ear of Reading has identified three goals which will help us turn Australia into a nation of readers:

First goal, for all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being.

Second, to promote a reading culture in every home.

And third to aim for families, parents and caregivers to share books with their children every day.

We will see every library -large and small -open their doors to invite the public in.

We’ll see media campaigns to help people become more confident in talking about and enjoying books.

There is funding for adult literacy, because it’s never too late -never too late - to discover a love of reading and the productive skills it brings.

And we’ll be working with Indigenous communities where we know literacy is so important for better life outcomes.

In short, we’ll be reaching out to Australians wherever they live because the gift of words is too precious to be withheld from anyone.

I therefore welcome this year-long celebration of books and reading.

I thank all the librarians, teachers, booksellers and other supporters for your help in making it a reality.

And I proudly declare the National Y ear of Reading officially open.

Thank you very much.

Page 2 of 2 Launch of the National Year of Reading,Canberra | Prime Minister of Australia

24/10/2012 http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/launch-national-year-reading-canberra