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.
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).
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).
models are indicated for Indigenous students alienated from mainstream
schooling and by a system which fails to value their culture and recognise
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
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
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).
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).
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
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).
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.