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 1999).

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 stories
  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.

Last updated 2 December 2001.