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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations and expectations of schooling in very remote Australian schoolsNo Title
Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) (2014)
  • Gina Milgate, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
  • John Guenther, Flinders University / Cooperative Research Centre-Remote Economic Participation
  • Peter O’Beirne, Principals Australia Institute
  • Sam Osborne, University of South Australia / Cooperative Research Centre-Remote Economic Participation
Schools in very remote Australia, where the students are mainly of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, are often characterised as failing or behind with intractable problems. The recent Northern Territory Review of Indigenous Education makes just that point: “These children, who have been the focus of improvement efforts for a decade and more, are still left irretrievably behind almost as soon as they start school” (Wilson, 2014, p. 11). The author, in his letter to the Minister, describes the problems of Indigenous education delivery as ‘intractable’. A critical examination of these statements and several more like it, would show that ‘behind’ is inevitably a judgement based on a set of assumptions and values that are not necessarily shared by those they talk about. But what do the students and families themselves say about their vision and expectations of their future, how they see success and how they view their experiences of school? This paper reports on the findings and discusses the implications emerging from an evaluation of 31 very remote Australian schools with 80+ per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enrolment. It is based on a series of ‘Collegial Snapshots’ conducted by Dare to Lead (a project of Principals Australia Institute) between 2009 and 2013. The Snapshots sought the perspectives of 672 participants as either school leaders, Aboriginal Assistants, classroom teachers, students or parents and carers. Analysis of the data looking through a lens of aspiration, success and school experience, carried out with the support of the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) adds to the findings of the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation’s Remote Education Systems project. The findings presented here, provide valuable insights into the perceptions of local people in remote communities and how they compare with the non-locals. Not surprisingly there are some marked differences in the way that locals and non-locals view their experiences and expectations of schools and their views about the future. The paper aims to unpack implications for educators, school leaders and education systems as they grapple with the challenges of working with remote communities to get the best outcomes for students and families. In particular the diverging opinions point to a need to carefully re-examine of the claims and discourse of disadvantage and challenge the notion of who has the intractable problem.
  • Aboriginal students,
  • Torres Strait Islander students,
  • Geographic isolation,
  • Parent aspiration,
  • Expectation,
  • Parent attitudes,
  • Aboriginal schools,
  • Aboriginal communities,
  • Success,
  • Teacher attitudes
Publication Date
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Qld
Refereed paper
Citation Information
Gina Milgate, John Guenther, Peter O’Beirne and Sam Osborne. "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations and expectations of schooling in very remote Australian schoolsNo Title" Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) (2014)
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