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The write stuff for Murarrie students

​Fostering literacy—Clayton Utz Big Buddies Andrew Holmes, Sandy English and Bianca Fernandez meet their Little Buddies Aaron, River and Evie

Remember the pen pal concept? That long lost art of actually writing a letter, putting it in an envelope, affixing a stamp and placing it in the letterbox, only to eagerly wait for a reply.

Now, we simply use our digits to tap, and often lose patience if a response is not immediate.

The dying art of letter writing has been revived, and the exchange is between an unlikely pair: Murarrie State School Year 6 students and Clayton Utz lawyers in Brisbane.

Murarrie State School teacher Janelle Packenas said the Literacy Buddies program provided students with both an educational opportunity, and the chance to learn and discover about aspirational career pathways.

'This is a great activity for the students. It gives them the chance to work on their literacy and communication skills,' Janelle said. 'And, it exposes them to careers in the legal profession.'

At the beginning of the school year, approximately 20 students (known as Little Buddies) are matched up with Clayton Utz staff members (known as Big Buddies). Four times a year they exchange handwritten letters.

'They get to share what’s going on in their lives with their buddy and build a relationship with them,' she said. 'They ask questions: what their hobbies are, what they do at work—basically trying to find out more about their lives.'

Literacy Buddies, an initiative of education charity Ardoch, was developed 20 years ago. The program was designed to give children a real-life context to practise their writing and composition skills, and to increase engagement and confidence in literacy.

The shared correspondence also builds the ambitions of the children by bringing them into contact with positive role models.

Early in the year the Big Buddies visit their Little Buddies at Murarrie State School, and then in the second half of the year the students visit their Clayton Utz Big Buddies at their riverfront offices.

One Big Buddy commented that 'seeing how excited the Little Buddies were when taking us around their school and speaking about it, and how excited they were seeing our office were real highlights.'

Janelle said the students also benefitted greatly from the program.

'The children love meeting their Big Buddies face-to-face, and showing them their school,' she said.

'They also feel super spoilt being able to go into the city to meet them in their workplace.'

'Some of the feedback from our students has been: 'It's exciting to receive mail' and 'I like that we get to be creative and write our own letters'.

'They absolutely love it. It makes them feel special,' Janelle said.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
Last updated
21 February 2020