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Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

Rural and Remote

Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

F. Success stories

The inquiry was cautioned

against evaluating the success of policies and programs by relying on

individual success stories.


are lots of good one-off stories, there are lots of good things happening.

You show me a good teacher, and I'll show you good things happening. So

there are a number of projects. But I think we need to be very, very careful

of any process which assessed the success of, say, policy looking at project

by project . It's very easy to put your hand up and say, "There's 20 really

good projects". The reality, in the outcome of project-based assessment,

is those figures which I showed you. In reality it makes very little difference

to the norm across the state, and we need to be very, very careful because

I think it is a very cunning way for government to be seen to be doing

things which are very superficial and rely on the goodwill of staff, which

can be whittled away very quickly project by project, until you get a

transformation. It produces a very good image about projects. There are

good projects, there are very dedicated teachers in our community. Unfortunately,

they're too few in number (Professor John Lester, NSW Aboriginal Education

Consultative Group, Sydney hearing, 22 October 1999).

The purpose of this

section is to report successful strategies which may inform future planning

- to being to identify 'what works'.

The importance of

pre-school was raised together with the importance of significant community

involvement in planning and delivery.

At Toomelah

there's a big difference because of the pre-school. They know their numbers,

how to count, their colours, everything. It's definitely needed. It'll

bring literacy and numeracy levels up (Boggabilla NSW ASSPA Committee

meeting, 5 March 1999).

Noting substantially

improved Indigenous participation in pre-schooling in WA, the Education

Department representative stated

... it no

doubt has something to do with the extra provision that has been provided

over the last few years, but I think it also may be related to the fact

that we do have some Aboriginal preschools in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan

areas where those preschools are predominantly for Aboriginal students,

although non-Aboriginal students can go there. They are run in very close

association with the community and in some cases are run by the community

where there is a strong emphasis on the Aboriginal culture and environment,

and those preschools sort of being a strategy for transition into mainstream

schooling (Jayne Johnston, EDWA, Perth hearing, 24 May 1999).

Alternative education

models are indicated for Indigenous students alienated from mainstream

schooling and by a system which fails to value their culture and recognise

their independence.


the VET sector and its principal component, TAFE, enrols more Aboriginal

and Torres Strait Islander people than any other post compulsory education

provider. The numbers participating are increasing significantly year

by year:

"The patterns

of VET participation show a substantial increase in the involvement

of Indigenous people in TAFE courses and other VET programs.. This increase

has occurred across all age groups.


VET participation rates are comparable with non-Indigenous VET participation

rates in the 21 to 24 age group and are actually much higher for Indigenous

people than for other Australians in the 16 to 17-year-old and 25 years

and over cohorts. It is only amongst 18 to 20 year olds that the non-Indigenous

VET participation rate greatly exceeds the VET Indigenous participation


Undertaking VET

training clearly improves employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander people - 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander people with VET qualifications are in the labour force whereas

amongst those without a qualification, only 49 per cent are participating

in the labour force. However, there is a disparity between the employment

outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people completing

VET compared to non-Indigenous people - in 1996 52 per cent of Indigenous

VET graduates were in employment the year following their graduation

compared to 71 per cent of non-Indigenous graduates. However, this situation

should not downgrade the importance of VET (ATSIC submission, page


In Mt Isa we secured

grants last year to assist communities across Queensland look at alternative

methodologies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who

choose not to access schooling. One of our success cases is in Mt Isa,

the Kalkadoon Education Alternative program, the KEA program. The alternative

program operates in collaboration with other primary and secondary schools

in the Mt Isa area. The program aims to provide a highly supportive

and culturally appropriate educational environment for Indigenous students

with learning, social and behaviour problems. In 1999 the project has

received $90,000 to support the ongoing employment of staff and programs,

focusing on literacy, numeracy, vocational education and training, live

schools and school to work transition (Shane Williams, Education

Queensland, Brisbane hearing, 8 October 1999).

Technology is

a great learning strategy for the children here because it combines

visual learning and repetition. I think that is one of the reasons why

the children have taken off this year (Billiluna WA school meeting,

14 May 1999).

Teaching literacy

and numeracy in a context of vocational training was described.


one of these special initiatives is the Cooktown Step Ahead project. Step

Ahead is a joint initiative between Education Queensland and DETYA, receiving

funding in 1999 of approximately $50,000. The project, which is progressing

towards sustainability is a community-based vocational educational and

training program operating between the Cooktown State School, local Aboriginal

and Torres Strait Islander community and local industry. The program targets

students identified as at risk, enabling them to undertake specialised

literacy and numeracy development and aid QF level 1 training and local

industry whilst remaining at the school (Shane Williams, Education

Queensland, Brisbane hearing, 8 October 1999).

There was strong

support for learning in an Indigenous environment whether it be simply

all-Aboriginal classes with an Aboriginal teacher or adoption of a complete

Indigenous pedagogy.


got a project running in Perth where they've got a high Aboriginal population

in an area and they're got three pre-primary classes one of which has

been turned into an Aboriginal pre-primary class with an Aboriginal teacher

and they haven't got long term records but talking to the principal he

was saying that the kids who had been through that pre-primary showed

no substantial difference in grades later on and attendance ratings throughout

their school careers, whereas the ones who were bypassing that pre-primary

were uncomfortable with school and were disadvantaged right through the

system (Helen Wright, Kununurra hearing, 17 May 1999).

It's a philosophy,

I guess, that underpins our practice, that attempts to allow the students

to work for some of their time within their own cultural paradigms,

their own language, their own frameworks, and we do that by encouraging

the students to think from their position, encouraging the students

to break into language groups, perhaps, and discuss something they're

learning, as a group, in their own language and then come back to the

bigger group (Veronica Arbon, Batchelor College, Darwin hearing,

10 May 1999).

The flow-on benefits

for all learning of studying an Indigenous language were endorsed.

What I saw

happened [following the introduction of bilingual education at Nguiu]

was the self-esteem and the ownership not only of their language but the

beginning of the ownership of their school, the difference in the children

- suddenly they had a language that they could speak in and they could

write in, and, to me, these are the educational values that we should

be looking at at this time ... (Sister Anne Gardiner, Darwin hearing,

10 May 1999).

This part of the

curriculum is one of the most relevant parts of the curriculum. This

is real education. Where is the equity in it? The parents are saying

that this is the subject that the children are talking about at home.

They talk about what they have learnt about Yolngu, not about maths

or science (Nhulunbuy NT community meeting, 12 May 1999).

... we get our

elders involved in teaching our children, our children learn Walpiri,

learn about our culture and it makes them proud of themselves, of who

they are. It is really important that bilingual education is not stopped.

It shouldn't be stopped (Lajamanu NT community meeting, 13 May 1999).

The kids feel

so proud to learn their own language (Halls Creek WA community meeting,

18 May 1999).

Along came these

elders and told stories, ancient stories, of their own lives and experience,

which talked about knowledge production in a way which is completely

different from the normal transmission metaphor that we use in the west.

Most schooling is built on a notion that information is in the head

of the teacher and passes through the mouth and along an imaginary pipe

and into the brain of the person that's learning, and has the same shape

in the student as what it has in the teacher. From a Yolngu point of

view, that's impossible and it's undesirable because it's assimilation,

especially if you've got a white teacher. The Yolngu have always had

a model for the production of knowledge, which is negotiated, which

is talked about using a ceremonial metaphor. I think if you go to Yirrkala

you'll hear more about this, it's not my position to talk about it too

much. It's to do with how knowledge comes out of a relation between

language and the land, and it's only formulated through respect for

people's positions from which they speak from, and through some sort

of negotiated celebration of the moment. In other words, truth, for

example, is not something which is universal and transplace but it's

something which is momentary, which is negotiated and celebrated together,

relevant to a particular moment and to a particular place. So that's

one example of the way in which we, as white fellas, have a lot to learn

about how we ought to organise our education through different epistemologies

(Michael Christie, NT University, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).


43 Chris

Robinson and Lionel Bamblett, Making A Difference: The Impact of Australia's

Indigenous Education and Training Policy, National Centre for Vocational

Education Research (1998).



Indigenous children's education rights


updated 2 December 2001.