2023 RTP round - Investigation of Effective Literacy Instruction within Western Australian Prisons

Updated: about 2 months ago

Status: Opening

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

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About this scholarship

Literacy, both spoken and written, is an important skill to be able to interact in a society.  In Australia, written English literacy is necessary to be able to be able to complete day to day tasks such as obtaining a driver's licence, complete a rental application, complete banking transactions and other day to day tasks. Individuals who do not have these functional literacy skills are more likely to interact negatively with the justice system, such as driving without a licence or noncompliance of government regulations and incurring fines or being at risk of incarceration (Wise et al., 2018).    

According to the Australian Department of Justice (2021), approximately 80% of all prisoners in WA are at or below the skill level expected of an 11 year old in reading and writing. Further, low literacy rates are posited as a significant factor in the likelihood of recidivism. Without the ability to interact successfully with their local community, it is more likely that the prisoner will not be able to successfully gain employment and manage their day to day lives and reoffend.  

Course offerings for prisoner-students in Western Australia include a variety of training from vocational, adult basic education (ABE) and art studies.  Research shows that the more classes completed by prisoners the lower the rate of re-incarceration and the less likely they are to increase the seriousness of their offending (Giles, 2016).  Therefore, it is important that the course offerings are both engaging to and effective for the prisoners. Providing useful and functional literacy training to prisoners is a matter of social justice, but also has positive social and financial impacts to all citizens of Western Australia.  

The overall aim of this project is to explore how educational opportunities within Western Australian correctional facilities may support detainees within the system, particularly in their ability to transition successfully back into their communities. Specifically, we want to understand the particular factors which may make the educational opportunities offered within prisons more engaging and effective to the prisoners. 

This project will employ both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to answer essential questions as to the strengths and barriers to effective literacy instruction within Western Australian prisons from the perspective of stakeholders including the prisoners themselves, their family members, as well as the correctional staff and community members.  

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.
Giles, M., Paris, L. & Whale, J. (2016) The role of art education in adult prisons: The Western Australian experience. International Review of Education, 62, 689–709. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-016-9604-3
Wise, J., Harris, B., Nickson, R., Boughton, B., & Beetson, J. (2018). Impact of the 'yes, I can!' adult literacy campaign on interactions with the criminal justice system. Australian Institute of Criminology.
Office of the Auditor General Western Australia. (2021). Improving Prisoner Literacy and Numeracy Report. https://audit.wa.gov.au/reports-and-publications/reports/page/2/ 

  • Future Students

  • Faculty of Humanities

  • Higher Degree by Research

  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa

  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at $28,854 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

This project is open to applicants eligible for a Masters of Research degree.  Applicants with Bachelor degrees in Science or Education will be highly regarded.  There is an expectation of excellent written and oral communication skills, and a strong willingness to engage study of both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. 


 Applicants who have experience working within the Department of Justice system, as well as experience in adult education and are willing to embrace a strength based perspective are encouraged to apply. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Dr Cindy Smith via the EOI form above.

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