Why is this important?
Working towards Aboriginal students attaining their final school qualifications at the same rate as non-Aboriginal students is an important step towards achieving Closing the Gap commitments and improving outcomes for Aboriginal students and their communities. Recent studies show a clear link between HSC attainment and positive future employment and higher educational outcomes.
Increasing the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining their Higher School Certificate (HSC) by 50% means that 1200 additional Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students will attain their HSC by 2023. To achieve this, the NSW Government, including the NSW Department of Education, are working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal communities and organisations to engage and support students, parents, carers and teachers to provide the best possible experience of school and learning.
Proactively supporting young people to strengthen their cultural identity, alongside providing tailored academic and curriculum support, is critical to sustainable progress. Engaging with Aboriginal communities in authentic cultural consultation is also essential for achieving the Premier’s Priority.
How are we tracking?
On average, 46% of Aboriginal students attained their HSC in 2016 and 2017, equating to 2100 students. Over the same period, 76% of non-Aboriginal students attained their HSC. The Premier’s Priority is designed to boost educational outcomes. It seeks to ensure that NSW Public Schools are committed to nurture, guide, inspire and challenge students – to find the joy in learning, and to build skills and understanding necessary to make sense of their world.
Interim results for 2021 show that the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining their HSC decreased slightly from the baseline to 43%. This is likely to be a slight underestimate, as some students might complete their HSC over a longer timeframe. While COVID-19 and natural disasters disrupted schooling for students, those who attended schools with Premier’s Priority initiatives have reported promising increases in cultural identity scores against a statewide decline. Increased system-wide knowledge about Aboriginal students and their secondary pathways to school completion is also enabling more focused and individualised responses to attendance and retention.
What are we doing?
The NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO), the NSW Department of Education and the Premier’s Implementation Unit are working together to support students to reach their learning potential and maintain connectedness to culture and the community. Some of the ways we are working towards this goal include:
This program is designed to be engaging and fun. It supports Aboriginal and other school students to build their self-esteem, self-confidence, cultural identity, sense of wellbeing and to realise their academic potential. Coaches from the local community support students to set cultural, pathway and academic goals. Pirru Thangkuray also provides support in sustaining educational outcomes for students through the delivery of Aboriginal perspectives and culturally appropriate and authentic content. Learn more about the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc.
Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centres were initially established in 17 schools across NSW. As of October 2022, there are a total of 32 centres. These centres focus on providing students with individualised academic, wellbeing and cultural support, especially at key transition points, in order to improve school engagement, attendance, retention and HSC attainment.
Twice a year, students accessing Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centres are asked what is working well, and how these centres can better support their aspirations.
“When I go to the Aboriginal Learning and Engagement team, it’s always a positive experience, they are on top of what work I have due and are always ready to assist me when I need a hand. They are a great team and they have assisted me in many ways throughout my time.”
“They have helped me increase my attendance. Helped with motivation to come to school. More help with assessments. They have taken me to see universities.”
“The Learning Centre has been able to support me with assessments and show an understanding in students’ lives and the importance of their education. They have helped me gain a better understanding and connection to my culture.”
The Aboriginal Education Policy commits to improving outcomes for Aboriginal students, and increasing knowledge and understanding of the histories, cultures and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of Australia. The NSW Department of Education is committed to strengthening the application of the policy across all public schools. This is further supported by the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, who deliver cultural immersion training to participating teachers and school staff, so they develop a richer understanding and connection to local Aboriginal cultures, histories, stories and social experiences.
The NSW Department of Education is committed to supporting schools to build the capability of staff, so they teach and engage in ways that enable Aboriginal students to see themselves and their culture reflected across the curriculum. This means supporting staff to engage with content to lift their cultural knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal histories and cultures, and equipping staff with teaching strategies so they can confidently embed Aboriginal perspectives in their teaching.
Since January 2020 over 18,000 education staff have completed professional learning as part of the Premier’s Priority.
“It gave me a greater understanding of Aboriginal History and Culture and more confidence in how I might share this knowledge with students.”
“Professional learning was clear, purposeful, informative with abundant practical suggestions for implementing Aboriginal perspectives into classroom teaching.”
The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc. (NSW AECG) and the NSW Department of Education have co-designed a pilot Aboriginal-Centred Teaching and Learning Program at Gorokan High School. The program, supported by the NSW AECG's cultural framework, recognises and incorporates Aboriginal cultural values and knowledge as the basis for Year 7 teaching and learning. Ongoing work is underway to understand how program implementation is informing teaching and learning outcomes.
The Aboriginal Community Connectors pilot, led by NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations, is an ‘outside the school gate’ initiative. It is premised on clearing barriers in students’ lives that hold them back from engaging at school and realising their educational aspirations.
Embedded within community-controlled organisations at Orange, Tamworth and Bega, and with a further 4 sites to be added in 2023, the Aboriginal-identified Connectors support students and their families to better access, coordinate, and engage with culturally appropriate services in their community. An additional $3.6 million over 3 years (2022-2025) has been committed to continue and expand the pilot program to a further 4 sites, to be established in 2023.
“Working with the Aboriginal Community Connector, I feel we have a better opportunity to support students holistically.”
“Thank you for not giving up on me and for keeping reaching out. I appreciate you still sticking by me and texting.”
My Future, My Culture, My Way is a co-designed communications initiative developed by the NSW Department of Education, NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations and the Premier’s Implementation Unit. This communication strategy supports Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students in attaining their HSC.
This campaign is designed to demonstrate the value of completing the HSC by using young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander voices and sharing their success stories.
In addition to the co-designed work being undertaken by NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO), the NSW Department of Education, and the Premier’s Implementation Unit, the NSW Government has committed:
- $43.5 million over 4 years to assist schools with the delivery of high-quality wellbeing and support programs that aim to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students engaged and achieving at school.
- $10.6 million over 4 years for the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group to develop a Regional Operations Model. This includes $0.5 million investment (2022-2023) to continue the community component of the Language and Culture Nests initiative in regional locations.