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Discussion paper

In Indigenous policy circles there is an increasingly desperate desire to lift the educational and employment outcomes of remote Indigenous students, relative to their non-Indigenous peers in the rest of Australia.

A lack of engagement with education and a scarcity of jobs underpin this policy anxiety.

This paper queries some current policy approaches to these issues and seeks to provide a practical and grounded perspective to education programs in remote Indigenous Australia. We question and challenge the weight current policy agendas are ascribing to literacy and numeracy attainment through direct and classroom based instruction. Alternatively, we seek to reinvigorate the notion that quality education can comprise other modes of learning and include community based educational approaches.

As an example we outline the importance of Indigenous land and sea management (ILSM) as a development and employment activity for Indigenous people living in remote regions of Australia, and show how remote education programs are connecting to ILSM to provide local 'Learning through Country' solutions.

From research conducted in a diversity of remote Aboriginal education and employment contexts, we find that there is a commonality of issues confronting attempts to link education with work and development activity. We finish by giving voice to some of these issues and offer insights relevant for educators and policy makers..

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