This is a preliminary report designed for use by and feedback to our stakeholders. Qualitative data were collected during the period from mid-2012 through to the end of 2014 to seek responses to the following four research questions:
• What is education for in remote Australia and what can/should it achieve?
• What defines ‘successful’ educational outcomes from the remote Aboriginal standpoint?
• How does teaching need to change in order to achieve ‘success’ as defined by the Aboriginal standpoint?
• What would an effective education system in remote Australia look like?
The data came from interviews and focus groups in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia and two online focus groups with participants coming in from across all Australian states except Tasmania. We interviewed a large range of stakeholders from both the demand and supply sides of the remote education system. To ensure that we better reflected the positions of remote Aboriginal people in the data, responses from Aboriginal people from remote locations were quantified separately from those of non-Aboriginal people living remotely and all people living in non-remote Australia.
The top four responses by Aboriginal stakeholders living in remote Australia are that:
• the main purposes of education in remote communities are about:
1. maintaining connection to language, land and culture
2. ensuring that learners have a strong identity rooted in their context
3. providing pathways to employment and economic participation
4. being strong in both worlds (western and Aboriginal).
success in remote education (in order of remote community responses) is about:
1. parent involvement and role models in children’s education
2. academic outcomes – predominantly basic competence in reading, writing and numeracy
3. community engagement – communities being part of what happens at school
• there are multiple teaching responses to achieve success:
1. ensuring the health and wellbeing of students at school
2. drawing on and building the expertise of local language Aboriginal educators
3. building strong relationships between teachers, students, assistants, families and other community members
4. using English as a Second Language (ESL) and multilingual learning approaches.
• potential responses from the education system to address the above priorities include:
1. promoting parent and community power
2. approaches that work with communities developmentally
3. partnerships with community stakeholders
4. the importance of secondary provision.
Non-remote stakeholders (who made up the bulk of responses) were particularly concerned about workforce development, resourcing and the political/policy context as well as parent and community power.