House Standing Committee on Education and Employment
The Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) welcomes the opportunity to make this submission to the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training inquiry into Education in Remote and Complex Environments.
The Commission has for many years highlighted concerns that geographical location can impact negatively on the ability of people to have their rights realised, including the right to education.[i] For example:
- In 1999–2002 the Commission (formerly the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) conducted the National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education. The inquiry revealed both disparity in educational outcomes between city and country children, and significant concern about access to education of an appropriate standard and quality in rural and remote areas across Australia.[ii]
- In 2018, the Commission made a submission to the Senate Economic References Committee inquiry into the indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality in Australia. The Commission recommended that the Committee apply a human rights framework to its analysis of regional inequality, and highlighted barriers to human rights for vulnerable population groups who live in rural, regional and remote Australia.[iii]
- The National Children’s Commissioner reports since 2013 have highlighted concerns about rural and remote disadvantage in relation to specific children’s rights, including the most recent Children’s Rights Report 2019.[iv]
Most recently, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices),[v] a major project conducted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, includes some of the key concerns raised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls in remote communities about their right to education. The Project will culminate in a report to be finalised in 2020.
This submission focuses on human rights concerns related to education which have arisen in this Commission work.
Recommendation 1: The Committee analyse the extent to which Australian Governments are meeting their obligations to respect and ensure the right to education in remote areas, including whether education is:
Recommendation 2: Australian Governments adopt targeted, additional measures to remediate the inequality experienced by children living in remote Australia.
Recommendation 3: As part of their commitment to universal access to early childhood education, Australian Governments:
- enhance access to quality early childhood education and care services in remote areas
- prioritise community-controlled integrated early years services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Recommendation 4: The Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council, work with states and territories to review their laws, policies and practices to ensure that:
- access to education for all children is guaranteed
- educational authorities and educational institutions – both public and private – are required to make all necessary adjustments and provide all necessary support to facilitate and ensure access to education for children and young people who are pregnant or are parents
- regular publication of information on adjustments made to support children and young people who are pregnant or are parents is required
- suspension, expulsion or denial of education of a child or young person on the ground of their being pregnant or a parent is prohibited.
Recommendation 5: Australian Governments ensure that children’s views and experiences are taken into account in developing policies and programs addressing disaster risk management.
Recommendation 6: Australian Governments invest in the teaching and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Australian schools and provide access to bi-lingual education in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Recommendation 7: State and territory education systems promote a two-way learning process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that adequately recognises and values Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories.
Recommendation 8: Remote schools prioritise local engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Recommendation 9: Australian Governments resource quality educational options in remote areas that allow students to learn on-country.
Recommendation 10: Australian Governments prioritise and resource models of schooling that provide wrap around supports for students and families in order to promote students’ overall wellbeing.
Recommendation 11: Australian Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to design and implement strategies to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education workforce in remote areas.
Recommendation 12: Australian Governments promote locally available traineeships and training courses that are relevant to local industries and local employment prospects in remote areas.
Recommendation 13: Australian Governments support schools to embed local culture, history and language into the school curriculum, including learning about the process of colonisation and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
[i] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, “Recommendations”: National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education (2002) https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/rural-and-remote-education-inquiry; Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia (30 April 2018); Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into The indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality in Australia (30 April 2018); Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Reports, https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrens-rights/projects/childrens-rights-reports; Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/projects/wiyi-yani-u-thangani-womens; Social Justice Reports, https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/publications/social-justice-reports.
[ii] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, “Recommendations”: National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education (2002) https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/rural-and-remote-education-inquiry.
[iii] Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into The indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality in Australia (30 April 2018).
[iv]Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Reports, https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrens-rights/projects/childrens-rights-reports.
[v]Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/projects/wiyi-yani-u-thangani-womens.