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Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

Rural and Remote

Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

Indigenous education

The Commonwealth

Government, together with all State and Territory Governments, recognises

that Australia's Indigenous people are "the most educationally disadvantaged

group in the community". Indigenous people participate in and attain significantly

less from education than the rest of the Australian population and this

impacts adversely on their economic and social well-being (DETYA submission,

page 12).

There is a strong

connection between education, language and culture. Thus education is

about a sense of Indigenous identity. Unless identity gains prominence

alongside other educational issues, we are swamped, and our language

and culture will die out. A sense of Indigenous identity must be integrated

in the education system.

Education underpins

our economic participation and contributes to our equality in mainstream

society. It is bound up with how mainstream society understands and

recognises us. It is bound up with being prepared to take our position

in society on the basis of equity. It prepares us for jobs and therefore

for economic development opportunities to lift us out of the poverty

cycle and dependence on government assistance.1

Once the children

know who they are, once they are accepted as equals, we will see Aboriginal

doctors and lawyers working with the white community but also keeping

their own culture intact (Doomadgee Qld community meeting, 6 October


Objective and outline

This paper discusses

the issues raised in the inquiry's third term of reference which provides

in part that the inquiry will investigate "whether the education available

to Indigenous children complies with their human rights". The paper covers

the following topics

  1. History

    of Indigenous education

  2. Definitions
  3. Indigenous

    students - a profile

  4. Commonwealth,

    State and Territory Indigenous education policies and programs

  5. Barriers

    to participation and success

  6. Success


  7. Indigenous

    children's education rights

  8. Recommendations

    to the Inquiry

1 Francis

Tapim, President, National Secretariat of Torres Strait Islander Organisations,

Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board News, April 1999, Education Strengthens

Sense of Indigenous Identity. A statement endorsed by ATSIC in its

submission to the inquiry.


updated 2 December 2001.