Adult Learning Australia Celebrates 60 Years

13 Jan 2021
AONTAS’ sister organisation Adult Learning Australia (ALA) celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020. ALA is the largest national not-for-profit organisation representing adult and community education in Australia. Their mission is similar to that of AONTAS as they work to ensure that all Australians can access the benefits of lifelong and lifewide learning. In this blog AONTAS Member Rob Mark shares the highlights of one of the key events that took place as part of these celebrations which included a video presentation from AONTAS CEO, Dr Niamh O’Reilly.

Adult Learning Australia (ALA) celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020. As part of these celebrations a virtual webinar entitled: ‘Looking Back, Casting Forward- 60 Years of Adult Learning in Australia’ took place on 25th November 2020. The event included the launch of a special issue of the Australian Journal of Adult Learning, celebrating 60 Years.

The webinar was opened by President Dr Annette Foley who talked about the importance of adult learning and how it is part of the deep fabric of Australia. It plays a critical role in social cohesion, health and wellbeing, and provides pathways and opportunities for a diverse range of people of all ages to access adult learning. She also discussed how adult learning has played a key role in solving some of the biggest challenges of our time and will continue to do so in a post COVID world.

Adjunct Professor Barry Golding gave a brief history of ALA and spoke about some of the key developments over the last 60 years. He also discussed the future of adult and community education in Australia and the importance of focussing on national and international networking.

The webinar included a video presentation from AONTAS CEO, Dr Niamh O’Reilly who congratulated colleagues in ALA on their 60th anniversary. Niamh spoke about some of the key areas of AONTAS’ work, which is underpinned by a strong focus on educational equality and the mission that all adults have a right to access quality learning throughout their lives. Niamh highlighted the importance of learner voice and how it is essential for really effective grassroots advocacy. Niamh also talked about how community education offers an inclusive and accessible form of learning that effectively engages adults and provides them with the supports that they need. Finally she shared some thoughts on how to get adult education on the political agenda and how building allies and collaboration was key to some of the recent policy successes in Ireland.

There are many similarities in the goals and challenges of adult learning in Australia and Ireland. This virtual forum provided an important space to bring together a wide range of experts and practitioners from across Australia, and around the world, who exchanged thoughts about the power of adult learning and education in the current climate and looked forward to the future of adult and community education and what can be done to generate its continued success.

For more information: 

You can access the full ALA webinar here:

To find out more about ALA and their range of resources that may be of interest to AONTAS members visit:

To celebrate ALA’s 60 Year Anniversary a publication of reflections was produced. You can read a piece from AONTAS CEO, Dr Niamh O’Reilly and AONTAS Member Rob Mark here: