ALNF was founded in 1999 by Mary-Ruth Mendel and Kim Kelly, who are passionate about helping people in Australia’s most marginalised communities gain literacy skills.
Mary-Ruth Mendel is a leading Speech Pathologist specialising in assisting people of all ages with literacy and learning difficulties through her private practice, The Speech Language & Literacy Centre. Mendel has spent over 30 years distilling international research on literacy and learning into effective teaching techniques that have led to highly successful and sought-after therapeutic practices.
Kim Kelly is a mother of four with a background in business management. Kelly has dedicated more than 15 years to ensuring that children are given equal access to the literacy skills many Australians take for granted and is a tireless advocate of the power of literacy to transform lives.
In 1994, Mendel and Kelly were introduced and with their shared passion for providing best-practice literacy support programs to school teachers they created an extension to Mendel’s private practice in The Sydney Literacy Centre.
Television coverage of Mendel’s success with clients experiencing reading, writing and comprehension impairment led to an avalanche of phone calls, more than 3000, from distraught parents and community members wanting to help children, staff, family who were struggling to read at even the most basic level.
In response, Mendel and Kelly began their journey to establish a charity that could properly and equitably assist people in need of literacy support, and the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) was born. It took several years for ALNF to receive tax-deductibility status, becoming the first literacy and numeracy foundation in Australia to do so.
Eric Brace formally joined ALNF in 2004, bringing expertise in the youth and education sector. He specialises in literacy and learning support for a diverse range of students, including young people with significant learning difficulties and English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Brace’s research into the social construction of literacy has seen him develop and direct ALNF’s award-winning Refugee Action Support (RAS) and Community Action Support (CAS) programs.
Today, ALNF raises funds to continue to develop, implement and sustain innovative literacy programs for individuals, families and communities.
Since its establishment ALNF has won the 2006 Best Community Project Award at the Ethical Investor’s 6th Australian Sustainability Awards for the design and delivery of their First Language Reading Course to Indigenous community members. In 2007 ALNF was awarded the University of Western Sydney Partnership Award for its Human Action Support program. The following year Mary-Ruth Mendel was named as one of four finalists in The Australian of the Year Awards – Local Hero Award NSW.
In 2010 RAS was identified by the The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and the Human Rights Council of Australia (RCOA) as a model of excellence. In the same year ALNF and The Sydney Morning Herald were awarded the UN Media Peace Award for their collaboration on ALNF’s Indigenous literacy appeal. In 2011 RAS at UWS was a finalist in the prestigious MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship.