Learning across the lifespan: Lifelong learning in Neighbourhood Houses in Australia
Neighbourhood Houses in Australia are spaces of education and learning that cater to and work with adult learners across a lifespan. They are known as fourth sector education providers in the Adult and Community Education (ACE) sector. With a history spanning nearly 45 years, Neighbourhood Houses provide vital education opportunities for adult learners. The research is set against the backdrop of the current project of lifelong learning, which has dominated adult education discourses for more than 30 years. Neighbourhood Houses are learning organisations and sites of social inclusion that embody adult learning practices. This empirical research of learners’ experiences in Neighbourhood Houses reveals the complex and varying reasons for participating in ACE that are beyond the realms of formal adult education and include reasons such as decreasing social isolation, fostering friendships and new networks, increased wellbeing, raising income capacity and further learning to improve employment prospects. In doing this, we provide three case studies from the larger data sample of this study to give insight into the complexity of adult education and learners’ experiences that occur in this dynamic space of learning. The outcomes for participants vary but include greater mastery of English language, improved foundational literacy, numeracy and computer skills, increased understanding of civics and citizenship and Australian history culture and society, while reconstructing previously held negative views of themselves as learners.