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 the skills and understanding necessary to make sense of their world.
Interim results for 2020 show that the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining their HSC decreased slightly from the baseline to 45%. This is likely to be a slight underestimate, as some students might complete their HSC over a longer timeframe. While COVID-19 has disrupted schooling for students, those who attended schools with Premier’s Priority initiatives have reported promising increases in cultural identity scores against a state-wide decline. These schools, in partnership with communities, moved quickly to provide students with a range of practical supports, including securing access to laptops, delivering tutoring online, providing hampers to families and organising regular wellbeing check-ins. 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 2021, there are now a total of 30 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:
“The Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centre has supported me with my assessments through tutoring and helped me through tough times giving me a shoulder to cry on.”
“I want to be the first one in my family to move on to university and get a good career.”
“The Learning and Engagement Centre is really good. They teach me good skills to do with focusing in class and are great at helping me learn better English skills. They are also helping me find different options for when I am struggling.”
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, languages, 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 that lifts 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 11,000 education staff have completed professional learning as part of the Premier’s Priority.
“Respect, relationships and relevance (local perspectives) to where we are is important to embed in our classrooms and for our understanding of history and culture.”
“Acknowledgement of history, connection to country and understanding kinship enables us to better plan and support our kids.”
The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the NSW Department of Education have co-designed a pilot Aboriginal-Centred Curriculum Program at Gorokan High School. The Program, supported by Dr Shayne William’s cultural framework, recognises and incorporates Aboriginal cultural values and knowledge as the basis for the Year 7 curriculum. 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 in Orange and Tamworth, Aboriginal-identified Connectors support students and their families to better access, coordinate and engage with culturally appropriate services in their community.
“I can’t thank [the Connector] enough for helping us as a family. Everyone else tells us what we need to do but [the Connector] actually asks and listens. I feel I can do this knowing that I have [the Connector] in my corner.”
“I like how the Community Connector thinks outside of the box to get the best outcomes for my child.”