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Lifelong learning for
a fairer Australia

Lifelong learning for
a fairer Australia

ACE policy

In 1991, the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training produced Come in Cinderella: The emergence of adult and community learning. This landmark report formally recognised ACE as the fourth sector of education that was structurally and operationally distinct from the schools, universities and VET, yet linked with them via learning pathways. It also differentiated ACE in terms of how it promotes lifelong learning and in giving people a ‘second chance’ to overcome skill deficiencies and shortcomings in prior formal education and training. The Senate’s follow-up report in 1997: Beyond Cinderella: Towards a learning society recommended an ‘unequivocal commitment by government to the concept of a lifelong learning society, and to bringing together national ACE and VET policy’ (AJAL, 2011). In 2008, the Ministerial Declaration on Adult and Community Education defined the commitment of all Australian governments to ACE.

ACE across Australia

Education and training departments have responsibility for ACE policy; however, historically the sector has received funding from all three tiers of government across a range of portfolios. The sector also generates income through fee-for-service activities. The Commonwealth recognises Adult Learning Australia (ALA) as the national peak body for ACE and provides support for Adult Learners’ Week activities (coordinated nationally by ALA). ALA maintains international relationships with the adult education sector through participation in the International Council of Adult Education (ICAE) and the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic Adult Education (ASPBAE).

States and territories across Australia take a different approach to the commitment made in the Ministerial Declaration. Some support a sector of not-for-profit ACE providers, while others use the term ACE to refer to a set of non-formal programs. Both views of ACE have a strong focus on engaging socially and economically marginalised groups through learning. Hover over each state and territory below for information on ACE across Australia.

ACE by state and territory


In the ACT, adult community education refers to the delivery environment. The ACT Government’s Adult Community Education Grants Program provides funding to a range of locally focussed not-for-profit community-based organisations or to education providers working in partnership with a community-based organisation.

Adult Community Education Grants Program – ACT


NSW ACE is currently made up of a relatively homogenous group of providers that identify as Community Colleges. These organisations are independent but are supported through Training Services NSW grants.

Adult and Community Education – NSW

NSW Adult and Community Education


The Northern Territory is the only Australian state or territory to have no statement, policy or strategy for ACE. However, examples of community-based adult learning exist across the Northern Territoryin Seniors Centres, Indigenous Communities, Working Women’s Centres and U3As. Some training programs run by the Department of Business –Training NT that support adult learning are shown here:

Digital Territory Strategy (2020-21)

Adult education and training programs – NT


In Queensland, the state does not set criteria nor does it register organisations as ACE providers. However, the Dept of Employment, Small Business and Training’s National Foundation Skills Strategy for adults (NFSS)recognises the role of ACE in improving foundation skills.

Adult Community Education – QLD


South Australia has a strong and established ACE sector, and clearly articulated ACE policy statements. ACE is managed by the Department of State Development (DSD), Foundations and Engagement Unit, and funded through ACE Foundation Skills Grants.

Adult Community Education – Community Centres SA

Recognising the Value of Adult & Community Education – Skills for Future Jobs 2020 Series


The Tasmanian government funds the coordination of a broad range of ACE programs, including adult literacy programs, through Libraries Tasmania and adult education and online access centres. The term ‘ACE’ is not commonly used to define a sector in Tasmania. The Department of Education largely funds ACE from within its annual budget.

Adult and Community Education – TAS

Tasmanian adult learning strategy 2019-2022

26TEN Strategy: The Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania’s Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy


The Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board is a statutory authority under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. Through the Board, the Victorian Government provides funding to community-based organisations, known as registered Learn Local providers, and two adult education institutions, the CAE and AMES Australia, for delivery of adult education and training programs.

Adult, Community and Further Education Board (ACFE) – VIC

The future of Adult Community Education in Victoria 2020-25 (Ministerial Statement)

Adult, Community and Further Education Board Strategy 2020-25


In WA, ACE refers to a set of programs delivered by a broad range of organisations including: State Training Providers (STP) formerly TAFE colleges, privateRTOs, local government, telecentres, community learning and neighbourhood centres, churches, migrant resource centres, adult education centres, seniors’ education associations and Aboriginal community organisations.

Further education and training – WA

Further information

Adult Learning Australia

Adult Learning Australia