In 2020, young people from remote communities in Australia’s Northern Territory are required to attend boarding school in order to access a full secondary education. Commissioned by elders in one Northern Territory remote community, this report investigates the intended and unintended consequences of this policy approach at individual and community level. Working with families, researchers tracked the education histories of 100 young people identified as community members and aged 12–21 years.
- In Australia, creating opportunity for remote First Nations families to access quality secondary education has proved a persistent challenge. This population continues to experience deep and persistent disadvantage across a range of measures which, taken together, have a compounding effect. These result in poor life outcomes for individuals and less safe and less liveable communities.
- The education and social problems research participants describe in this study are diverse and interconnected. They include a lack of investment in housing and economic development, limited education and training opportunity, poor health and increasing community dysfunction. Policy responses to any one of these factors will only prove effective when policy makers engage with them as a whole, and with ‘the cause of the causes’ that lie behind any given outcome
- This study has shown a large disconnect between local educational aspirations and system-level provision. Policy decisions should seek to identify models which are shown to increase the likelihood of education engagement and attainment in place. The community involved in this study are adamant that ‘place based approaches’ to educational development must be paramount.
Education is a foundational human capability. It improves a person’s employment prospects and earning capacity, and the evidence points to a relationship between education and better health and raised civic and social engagement. The responsibility to create opportunity and remove barriers to education lies heavy on any government. This is especially true in relation to society’s most disadvantaged young people.