‘Literacy’ is embedded in all subjects in the Australian Curriculum, as a ‘general capability’ and expressed as a range of subject-specific literacy practices. Significant demands are placed on teachers, amidst widespread political, media and community pressures, to provide high-level literacy outcomes for students in schools. Pre-service educators (training teachers) come to university with variable levels of understanding of literacy concepts and with variable literacy practices. This presentation reports on first stage of a longitudinal study of beginner pre-service educators’ understandings of literacy, its place in the curriculum, and their own literate practices. Initial findings indicate limited perspectives on what literacy entails and how it might be embedded across the curriculum. Findings of each stage of the research are being used to inform university education programs on literacy teaching in education degrees, aimed at targeted preparation of students to be informed literacy educators, based on the skills and understandings they bring to university rather than arbitrary assumptions about what pre-service educators already know.