Government policy on ACE

History of 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.

Current ACE policy

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).

ACE across Australia

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.

Further information

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