Aboriginal education – time for action

Published 12 December 2013

Inga and LeslieAboriginal affairs have maintained a consistent place in the national dialogue, headlined by Kevin Rudd’s apology and before that John Howard’s intervention. But while these big agenda items gain maximum exposure, what then for some of the more intractable areas of disadvantage, like Aboriginal education. How far has that sector moved towards closing the gap?

Lecturer Dr Inga Brasche says the frank answer is not very far.

Dr Brasche (pictured with assistant teacher, Leslie Warawilya) says a legacy of poorly administered education policy, often established by trial and error has seen education outcomes for Aboriginal children continue to fall behind those of non-Aboriginal students.

“The reality is that Aboriginal people continue to be effectively voiceless. If the same educational standards and outcomes applied to any other sector of Australian society, there would be a national outcry.”

Dr Brasche says her work has been looking at identifying those practices which do work.

“We know that Indigenous communities need a special type of teacher with a special set of personal characteristics, who brings not simply higher quality education, but can establish themselves in the community and provide continuity of learning.”

Dr Brasche says targeted pre-service preparation and internships at the start of their careers has shown promise for long term retention in Indigenous communities.

She says the Targeted Internship  – Remote  Indigenous Communities (TIRIC) project, backed by UNE proposes placing six specially selected pre-service teachers, in their final year with UNE directly into remote NSW community schools with high Indigenous populations for their final internship.

“We know that competitive internship programs in high Indigenous populated schools leads to  mutual benefits, communities gain fresh, highly skilled  pre-service teachers and the student teachers obtain a career enhancing cross cultural experience, which often leads to offers of full time employment. “

Dr Brasche says selection of teachers for the first round of Targeted Teacher Internships is proposed to begin early in 2014.
“Each of the six student teachers who win places in the highly competitive selection process will be carefully and closely assessed, then mentored by experienced UNE academic staff during their time with the TIRIC Project.”