Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper
and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper
to the Inquiry
- H1 Whole
of government response
- H2 Indigenous
- H3 Bilingual
- H4 Aboriginal
- H5 Community
- H6 Family
and community ownership
- H7 Delivering
- H8 Addressing
ignorance and intolerance
- H9 Addressing
- H10 Other
- H11 Recommendations
from 'Learning lessons'
in its submission three basic principles which should form the basis for
progress for Indigenous people in education. These principles are: Community
self-determination within the education system is integral to realising
education outcomes for indigenous children. This is necessary to ensure
acceptance and involvement of Indigenous people in the education system.
Respect for Indigenous
knowledge and a recognition of the need for cultural maintenance should
be apparent in education provided to Indigenous children. This would
provide a foundation and make the education system relevant and appropriate.
needs should be seen in relation to and integrated with other requirements
of the community such as health, housing, general community infrastructure.
This will ensure the effectiveness of education strategies by taking
into consideration the range of other factors impinging on educational
participation and achievement.
of these principles is important to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people own the education system and its processes for
the achievement of better education outcomes for Indigenous people.
The development of any policies and strategies aimed at achieving better
educational outcomes for Indigenous children must be seen within this
context (David Curtis, ATSIC Commissioner, Melbourne hearing, 12
(1) adoption of the three key guiding principles for Indigenous education,
planning and services; (2) a national forum funded by DETYA to consider
options for a national Indigenous education organisation; (3) establishment
of human rights benchmarks as a basis for monitoring and assessing the
achievements of Indigenous education; (4) increase research effort,
in particular on the relationship between education outcomes and the
various sectors including housing, health, infrastructure, good practice
in Indigenous rural and remote education; (5) an inventory ordered of
all primary and secondary school resources and facilities available
to Indigenous people in rural and remote Australia to be undertaken
by federal and state education departments (David Curtis, ATSIC Commissioner,
Melbourne hearing, 12 November 1999).
of government response
The need for a whole-of-government
response to the planning and delivery of Indigenous education recognises
the interdependence of health status, culture, socio-economic status and
that there is a deep and systematic problem in Indigenous education which
requires a concerted approach by governments, communities and education
providers. ATSIC urges that unless the problems are addressed collectively
and underpinned by Indigenous self-determination, efforts to achieve sustainable
improvement in education will be ineffective, and it believes that a holistic
approach is needed because the barriers that Indigenous people face in
education span across other fundamental areas of their lives (David
Curtis, ATSIC Commissioner, Melbourne hearing, 12 November 1999).
Funding to schools
needs to reflect the wider social issues of Indigenous students, transport,
provision of food, clothing, accommodation, assistance with counselling,
medical support (Beverley Angeles, Indigenous Education Council,
Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
While there was some
debate about the existence of different Indigenous learning styles, the
weight of evidence favoured the view that at least some adjustment needs
to be made.
differences do impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning
processes. Historically, schools have failed to reflect Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander values and learning styles. Consequently, Indigenous
students enter an educational institution where they and their parents
have limited or no experience and if any experience, it is usually a negative
one. Often the value systems and style of the institutions do not reflect
the values of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies and do not
always take account of the home experience of Indigenous students. In
addition, the language used in educational institutions is often not the
everyday language of Indigenous students.48
are also evident in the links between culture and cognitive style, in
the forms of culturally preferred knowledge, in cross-cultural communication
and in culturally relevant teaching and learning strategies (ATSIC
submission, pages 22-23).
Talking and listening
is one of the ones that has been the poor cousin of the other two I
suppose. I think that's really important, especially in communities
with high Aboriginal populations. The oral component of learning is
a really important one (Daryl Thompson, Brewarrina hearing, 2 March
The emphasis is
on teaching in a culturally appropriate manner. The teacher should hang
back and let the older ways of learning take precedence so that learning
is an extension of the daily life. This might address some of the truancy
and attendance issues (Halls Creek WA community meeting, 18 May 1999).
a different kind of knowledge ie Western concepts and pedagogy, it is
important that the traditional values and knowledge continue to be not
only valued and respected but also drawn into all aspects of the education
environment (ATSIC submission, page 22).
The kids want
more sport and manual arts. They want to go out bush. They need practical
training as part of their schooling too. They don't want to spend all
of their time in the classroom (Doomadgee Qld community meeting,
6 October 1999).
The argument for
cultural immersion was put by a number of witnesses.
clearly, the overwhelming push amongst Indigenous people in education
worldwide is for cultural immersion. There is a huge rejection of perspectives
to curricula because they believe they're piecemeal and won't work. To
quote one of the Maori elders of the time, "We need to bring in and immerse"
- he was talking, obviously, about his own culture - "their kids in Maoritanga
language and live it and breathe it in the school environment." That has
extended and flowed on to tertiary levels; so they now have, right through
to tertiary levels and teacher training in Maoritanga. Quite clearly,
I see that that's where we need to go and the AECG would be of that opinion
. I think cultural immersion through Indigenous schools, publicly funded,
are a real option that we need to look at, where we can give back culture
and regenerate that in terms that Indigenous people control.
My vision would
be that we need to target no differently than we target schools for
those that are intellectually enhanced. So that schools that are selective
high schools - and we've been doing that for decades - and schools now
where we see - sporting high schools, music high schools - I think,
in the same vein, we need to create a number of at least pilots, and
I would think in rural locations, well supported by hostel support,
these cultural immersion schools, where we can put Indigenous people
into these environments, and provide them with the best in terms of
executive support staff (Professor John Lester, NSW Aboriginal Education
Consultative Group, Sydney hearing, 22 October 1999).
This is what we've
got to teach children in our first language. There's contents such as
social education, bush medicines as a topic, (indistinct) relationship
and kinship and relationships, history of our land, significant things.
What created the land, that's part of our culture and language. It goes
hand in hand (Rosalind Djuwandayngu, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
We need an education
that is culturally appropriate, because there's - and it's an issue
that was raised by the previous group, and it's a constant issue because
education worldwide is coming out of a western paradigm and comes with
its own culture, and somehow we've got to include Aboriginal people,
include Aboriginal content, to try and nullify, to some degree, that
western culture (Veronica Arbon, Batchelor College, Darwin hearing,
10 May 1999).
We supported the
concept of Aboriginal schools, that is, schools that would have an Aboriginal
focus, would have Aboriginal teachers, not schools that would have an
absolutely selective enrolment. What we were prepared to support - I
think this was the proposition - would be that the schools would clearly
advertise what they had to offer but that others in the community could
also attend that so that they would be substantially Aboriginal schools.
I think if it
was actually race-based, it would raise concerns about issues like the
discrimination laws in the States and apartheid and so on. But we did
support the concept of schools that were run by Aboriginal people for
We certainly have
concerns about anything that would close off options. Hopefully the
students at any school would have the opportunity to do the School Certificate
and the HSC, that they wouldn't have a curriculum that didn't provide
them the opportunities that others had; but I wouldn't think that people
in the community would want that either, so I wouldn't expect that that
would be a problem (Wayne Patterson, NSW Teachers' Federation, Sydney
hearing, 22 October 1999).
As noted above, there
was strong support for bilingual education for children whose first language
is not English.
It is considered
that bilingual programs contain significant educational advantages for
Indigenous persons whose first language is not English. A bilingual program
implicitly recognises and respects the individual's culture and language.
In this regard the school or educational setting becomes an agent of cultural
continuity. The educational curriculum becomes more accessible to the
student who is operating in a familiar language area and therefore feels
more secure. The student's language identifies them with their language
group and the use of their own language enhances their self-confidence
and self-concepts that improves their educational prospects (ATSIC
submission, page 24).
The issue of bilingual
education is one that has a lot of significance and importance for ATSIC,
and we see that as an area that states really should be providing much
more leadership in allowing communities to make a decision about how
they integrate languages into the education process. ATSIC's view, has
been that it is a community's decision on how they want to do it because
different communities want to approach education in different ways.
Some want to focus on bilingual - being taught in their own language
first as a vehicle into learning English, and others would rather go
straight into English (Lewis Hawke, ATSIC, Melbourne hearing, 12
One of the basic
human rights is for a child to experience education in their cultural
context and in their own first language, and for many children who are
Indigenous, non-English speaking migrants or refugees in rural and remote
areas, this simply isn't available. Now, what that does is raise the
implications for education departments with a provision of teachers
for English as a second language. So there's a professional need (Dr
David McSwan, James Cook University, Brisbane hearing, 8 October 1999).
First of all,
we don't want people making assimilations. We want to try and work on
this to improve children's first language then we'll think about learning
the other language, the foreign language which is called English (Rosalind
Djuwandayngu, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
The importance of
teaching Indigenous culture, local history and local Indigenous languages
to all children was emphasised.
won't change until Koorie culture is compulsory in the curriculum (Bairnsdale
Vic Koorie workers meeting, 11 November 1999).
We have Aboriginal
Studies and we don't know anything about our culture. They don't get
no elders to come in and talk to us. All we do is watch silly little
videos. And some things that aren't even involved with our culture.
No Aboriginal Education worker participates in Aboriginal Studies. I
think we need an Aboriginal teacher in the school who can teach us about
our culture (Brewarrina NSW students meeting, 2 March 1999).
are not taught here. They should bring the old people down to the school
so that they can teach the children about language and culture. The
school is not really serious about culture. They might employ people
to teach it but they are not really committed (Doomadgee Qld community
meeting, 6 October 1999).
The elders need
structured support though. Going into a classroom is difficult for traditional
people who are not used to being in the classroom; it is not their natural
environment. Nobody would expect these old ladies to take the classes
of kids. It is not as though they could go into a classroom and teach
30 children. The elders are eager to teach the language but they need
support and they need literacy support (Halls Creek WA community
meeting, 18 May 1999).
The role of Indigenous
educators was held in general high esteem by witnesses. There were calls
for wider involvement by Indigenous culture and language experts in schools.
The challenge is to build bridges between the school and Indigenous families
important one, I think, is to recognise the Aboriginal community members
as playing a key role in supporting students at school and to provide
funding for these people as employees in the school. We find at Yipirinya
School that, if the students have got family there, they're more inclined
to come to school and to stay there. If there's no-one there, family,
you might get them for the odd one or two days a week or a few weeks and
then you don't see them again (Beverley Angeles, Indigenous Education
Council, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
of Indigenous parents in their children's education is one of the key
ways in which the schooling system can be made more relevant to Indigenous
communities. Parents promote student learning through encouragement,
expending resources, imparting their own knowledge as to how the education
system works and making decisions in regards to the educations options
that should be pursued (ATSIC submission, page 24).
of parents and communities in the school environment and decision making
is considered crucial to the improvement of participation, achievement
and outcomes for Indigenous students. It is crucial that parents be
provided with the skills and resources to effectively participate and
to be active partners in the education of their children. This means
ensuring that parents of students have access, where necessary, to education
or training to ensure adequate literacy and numeracy skills, an understanding
of how schools and education systems operate, and most importantly what
parental rights are in advocating on behalf of their children in the
school environment (ATSIC submission, page 26).
That funding and
services to improve education outcomes for Aboriginal students continue
to be a priority and that a new initiative focussing on Aboriginal parents
as first teachers be developed to enhance literacy and numeracy achievements
for Aboriginal children to national standards by the completion of Year
3 (SA Government submission, page 18).
liaison officer is needed at the school. This is currently not an option
for the Kalkaringi School. The NT Government has not allocated funds
for this position. Nevertheless, it is often family problems that keep
the children at home. It is also important that this role promote the
benefits of schooling throughout the communities (Kalkaringi NT community
meeting, 13 May 1999).
There is a lack
of communication between the school and the community. The teachers
need to talk to the parents more. They need to come into the parents'
homes and show them respect. If children see the parents and the school
working together, attendance will improve and they will respond better
to their teachers (Doomadgee Qld community meeting, 6 October 1999).
I really do believe
that if we're going to overcome some of the negative experiences that
people have had with their education, one way to break down barriers
is to get out and meet people (Ruythe Dufty, Principal Brewarrina
Central School, Brewarrina hearing, 2 March 1999).
and community ownership
While greater parent
and community involvement will create a sense of shared ownership, there
were also calls for the devolution of real community ownership of children's
to have ownership of the program; people need to be proud of what they
are and what we are. We don't want people coming into our school and changing
everything. It happened a long time ago, assimilation, and now we're going
backwards again (Rosalind Djuwandayngu, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
Jimmy has mentioned
before that we're heading towards the right path, towards running things
for ourselves, the Tiwi people. We're heading towards 2010 maybe sooner,
to take over the main positions that the non Tiwis have on this island.
We are heading towards this position and as you know education is a
major key, it plays a major role towards that. So the education has
to be one that our children are happy with and we want our children
to succeed and to achieve outcomes in that process (Nguiu NT community
meeting, 11 May 1999).
overcome the lack of realistically accessible secondary schooling for
many Indigenous students came principally from the Northern Territory.
of the things we would like to see is an innovative way that secondary
education is actually provided because a lot of the constraints that governments
talk about in terms of providing education in remote areas relate to a
conventional model of delivery, and I think they really need to start
looking at innovative ways of providing education to relatively small
numbers in a diverse group (Lewis Hawke, ATSIC, Melbourne hearing,
12 November 1999).
... it's about
getting schools or getting education systems to be responsive at that
local level because it's a diversity of views and a diversity of communities
and a diversity of circumstances that education systems are trying to
deal with, and the one size fits all approach which seems to be the
common denominator in many of these cases just doesn't work. It does
fail. It doesn't assist communities to develop their economic and community
and cultural potential that is very much there (Chris Sadleir, ATSIC,
Melbourne hearing, 12 November 1999).
facilities with some minor modifications, finding staff - which can
be difficult but not impossible - working out a curriculum negotiating
with the community . secondary education is very cultural specific in
my view; much more than primary education. There's a whole raft of stuff
which is implicit in the way secondary education works and teachers
look at their role. So I think we've got to hasten slowly with that
(Bill Griffiths, Director of Catholic Education, Darwin hearing,
10 May 1999).
of educating on the communities so that it isn't necessary for students
to leave their homes. This is one of the models being worked on . mixed-mode
multi-campus model, which is where you have various modes of getting
the course material in front of the students. Some of it might be correspondence,
some electronically-based through computer contacts and things like
video conferencing (Peter Toyne, Shadow Minister for Education, Darwin
hearing, 10 May 1999).
ignorance and intolerance
The adverse impact
of racism on Indigenous students and their education prospects has been
noted above. Suggestions were made on combating ignorance and intolerance
among teachers, administrators, students and parents.
embedded in the school curriculum and it becomes part of the ethos of
the school, at a deeper level, and there's acknowledgment that institutional
racism does occur, that teachers can be racist, that children can be racist
and school activities can not so much promote racism but do very little
to stop it happening - so if there's an anti-racist policy, it's something
that then is embedded in the whole curriculum, it's written in black and
white, so to speak, and therefore can be accessed by students and teachers
alike. There's also an accountability factor then, that the school itself
has to be accountable in those terms, in the same way at the moment that
many schools hold themselves accountable in sexual harassment cases. The
children know and can be educated about a policy (Margot Ford, NT University,
Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
In terms of potential
racism, we cannot forget the front office staff, and we need some affirmative
action there to either train existing office staff in terms of culturally
appropriate programs, because if an Aboriginal parent's going to be
switched off, quite often that happens before they get past the front
desk; and quite clearly we need some affirmative action in terms of
making sure that Aboriginal people get access to these fairly elite
and, in a community, very influential positions, especially the smaller
communities (Professor John Lester, NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative
Group, Sydney hearing, 22 October 1999).
Measures to address
specific needs for individual children were proposed including measures
to compensate for hearing impairments, nutrition deficits and domestic
cycles so that at any one time the 40% that have got a hearing impairment
will be a different list of names, year to year and even parts of years.
So really you have to have strategies that prepare the teaching space
to maximise the teacher's chances of dealing with hearing-impaired kids
(Peter Toyne, Shadow Minister for Education, Darwin hearing, 10 May
of education needs to attend to making teachers competent in the understanding
of the educational procedures and the hearing disabilities of children.
We have, in some communities, 100% of children arriving at school having
had otitis media, and would, by then, have lifelong hearing damage,
and some will have never heard some of the sounds in the English language,
which places them at a disadvantage in terms of being able to read and
to spell. It accounts for, in many cases, absenteeism, behaviour problems,
and there's a cluster. I think we need to give much more attention to
that (Dr David McSwan, James Cook University, Brisbane hearing, 8
... to assist
the children that our students teach or will teach we urgently recommend
that even at the risk of sounding maternalistic that the nutritional
and health needs of the children be met. An emergency measure, maybe
the introduction of a breakfast program (Sister Clare, Notre Dame
University, Broome hearing, 20 May 1999).
I had a meeting
at the school recently and one of the big issues raised was a lack of
communication between the school and the community. They suggested that
they should have a full-time counsellor at the school so that the children
could talk about their problems, especially about the violence in their
lives (Halls Creek WA community meeting, 18 May 1999).
... parents around
Halls Creek that was one of the things that they said they really wanted
their kids to come out of school with was better conflict resolution
skills because they had to learn that fighting wasn't necessarily the
way of solving problems; that violence and fighting in the community
was a really big issue and that wasn't really reflected in school and
wasn't a skill that kids were coming out with (John Roe, Kimberley
Work Training, Kununurra hearing, 17 May 1999).
At Yipirinya School,
we've implemented a scaffold literacy approach, which we are hoping
will address that issue. A higher rate of teachers to students is needed
too in the learning situation, as intensive one-on-one work is needed
for a lot of our students (Beverley Angeles, Indigenous Education
Council, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
(high-achieving students assisting others) and role modelling (AEAs
and other Aboriginal people coming into the school) are very important
(Moree NSW Aboriginal workers meeting, 5 March 1999).
A range of other
recommendations was made including needs for further research, greater
consultation and accountability and enhanced flexibility.
On the one
hand, I think we need to have some research into the extent of discriminatory
practices in Australian schools, and one way of doing this would be to
take a random example of schools across the country and examine discipline
records, such as expulsions and suspensions, and match these for gender,
ethnicity and socio-economic status, to have a sense of what is going
on (Margot Ford, NT University, Darwin hearing, 10 May 1999).
We also think
it's worth looking at what goes on in other countries, and the countries
that we've named in particular are New Zealand and Canada, where they
have certainly - in terms of their Indigenous populations - done some
work and there may be some learnings from those. So there's been a fair
amount of work done there. There has been stuff done on self-determination.
They seem to have advanced to those agendas of reconciliation further
than we have at this point, at least in terms of government action,
and perhaps there are things we could learn from that (Lynne Rolley,
Independent Education Union, Melbourne hearing, 12 November 1999).
in the ludicrous situation where the head of the AECG ... now meets with
an assistant to an assistant to an assistant to a director, and they still
call the meeting the director-general's meeting. I'm really worried that
that level of negotiation isn't taking place. We've ceded, a few weeks
ago, with a meeting with the minister, and also with the director-general
of education, the same things we've spoken to you about, we are in crisis.
Our situation isn't improving. We actually said to him, "We're not saying
that the effort isn't being made, but the effort's not being made in the
right direction". What we ask from them - and I'm still waiting to hear
a reply - is that we need a major search conference, where Indigenous
people can get together and critically look at where to next, because
the current policies aren't working (Professor John Lester, NSW Aboriginal
Education Consultative Group, Sydney hearing, 22 October 1999).
We cannot express
how important it is to have a monitoring and reporting process in place
to achieve equitable outcomes for all Aboriginal people, not only at
a state but also a national level so as the state models are succinct
with the national priorities, and that a national independent report
be conducted and published each year so that the national goals are
achieved (Kim Collard, WA Aboriginal Education and Training Council,
Perth hearing, 24 May 1999).
timetable should be flexible enough to cater for community needs and circumstances.
In the summer it gets very hot, so the school would be better off commencing
classes early and finishing at around 2.00pm. Another option might be
to close the school during summer and have longer hours during winter.
ALSO School term dates should also be flexible enough to cater for the
wet season, when many children are not able to travel to school because
of prolonged flooding (Normanton Qld public meeting, 5 October 1999).
support, administrative as well as financial needs to be given to the
professional development of Indigenous staff both on-site and through
tertiary institutions to assist in redressing this unequal relationship
(John Bucknell, Aboriginal Independent Schools Unit, Broome hearing,
20 May 1999).
The last point
is support through scholarships, HECS payments to get qualified Aboriginal
people employed in the education system, both mainstream and independent
(Beverley Angeles, Indigenous Education Council, Darwin hearing,
10 May 1999).
who work in Indigenous communities should be carefully screened for their
knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultural issues (Doomadgee
Qld community meeting, 6 October 1999).
for the, particularly, underprivileged, we would say, multiply underprivileged,
means priority for those students, and so they should be getting additional
pieces of the cake... It is no longer good enough to say that we will
look at the way that we rearrange the crumbs on the table and think that
those that fall off will be good enough for our most remote and most underprivileged
students (Robert Laird, Australian Education Union, Darwin hearing,
10 May 1999).
Recommendations of 'Learning lessons'
Is the report of the review of Indigenous education in the Northern Territory
conducted in 1999 by former Senator Bob Collins. The NT Minister for Education
has summarised the key themes underlying the report's recommendations.
Lessons' reports a growing awareness by Indigenous people, teachers and
the wider community that solutions must address a range
of factors - that education cannot be treated in isolation from other
service delivery areas such as health, housing and policing. I cannot
stress enough that poor attendance, poor health and a lack of strong community
support directly impacts on educational outcomes.
The Review's recommendations
centre on some important themes:
- Developing strong,
high level partnerships with Indigenous leaders, communities and other
- Increasing school
attendance and developing effective tracking systems with the full
involvement of Indigenous parents;
- Improving school
facilities, teacher housing and telecommunications infrastructure
in remote communities;
- Expanding and
improving the curriculum, particularly in relation to ESL and "two-way
- Developing further
options for secondary schooling and vocational education and training;
- Improving strategies
for recruitment, retention and Indigenous employment; and
- Recording, monitoring
and reporting meaningful data on educational outcomes.
The Review also reaffirms
that lasting improvements in Indigenous education outcomes will continue
to require whole of government commitment within the Northern Territory,
including an enhanced working relationship with the Commonwealth Government.
"Whole of Government"
is not a catch phrase Mr Speaker. It underpins an increased effort on
our part to see better linkages and cooperative working arrangements
between departments and agencies (NT Education Minister, Statement
to Parliament, 24 November 1999).
and Torres Strait Islander Commission, July 1996 Submission to the
Senate Inquiry into Indigenous Education, ATSIC, Pg 12.
updated 2 December 2001.