Cath Dunn has been an ALA Board member since 2012. She first came across ALA in 2000 in the course of her work with the WA Department of Training, where she was responsible for policy and projects related to equity in VET and adult community education (ACE). ALA along with local ACE organisations were part of the Department’s ACE Advisory Committee, which contributed policy advice and helped plan major projects events and grants.
When and how did your involvement with adult learning start?
I started work in TAFE in 1978 as a student counsellor. For the next 17 years – in both metropolitan and regional colleges – I met with and helped adults returning to study.
What do you see as best practice when it comes to adult learning?
Adults come to learning for a variety of reasons, with a range of educational backgrounds and with different needs and goals. They bring with them all their rich life experience – some with positive expectations of themselves as learners, and many with negative ones. Good practice in adult learning makes use of this diversity and recognises and builds on each person’s existing knowledge and skills. By making the learning relevant, flexible, interactive and achievable, it builds the learner’s confidence and motivation.
Why do you think an organisation like ALA is important?
An association like ALA provides a central professional point where diverse organisations with common purposes can share ideas, learn from each other and present a united voice. This is particularly important where many organisations are relatively small and isolated and not well funded. I think ALA is doing a great job in using online forums, communication and workshops to get interaction and professional development across the sector, at minimal cost to participants.
What have you learned as a result of being on the Board?
I have learnt a lot more about the breadth of activities ALA is involved with, how the finances are managed, and how efficient and responsible the administration team is. I’ve met the other Board members who are all professional and committed to the cause and bring valuable experience and perspectives. It’s also been really interesting to see how ALA manages its relationship with funding bodies, as I have always previously sat on the government side of the fence.