National Report on Schooling in Australia 2013

National initiatives and achievements

2.7 Improving educational outcomes for Indigenous youth and disadvantaged young Australians, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds


The first goal of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians is that Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.

Within the Melbourne Declaration, education ministers acknowledged that:

• Educational outcomes for Indigenous ¹ children and young people are substantially behind those of other students in key areas of enrolment, attendance, participation, literacy, numeracy, retention and completion.
• Students from low socio-economic backgrounds, those from remote areas, refugees, homeless young people, and students with disabilities often experience educational disadvantage
• Australian governments must support all young Australians to achieve not only equality of opportunity, but also more equitable outcomes.

Ministers committed Australian governments to working with all school sectors to:

• ‘close the gap’ for young Indigenous Australians
• provide targeted support to disadvantaged students
• focus on school improvement in low socio-economic communities.

Agreed national strategies under the Melbourne Declaration included: the development of an action plan to close the gap for Indigenous children and young people; providing increased access to quality early childhood education programs for Indigenous children; supporting coordinated community services for Indigenous students and their families; strengthening school leadership and teaching in disadvantaged schools; and generating meaningful pathways for all disadvantaged students.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has set targets to lift educational attainment overall and to close the gap between the educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students; these are incorporated in the National Education Agreement.

These are to:

• lift the Year 12 or equivalent or Certificate II attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2015
• lift the Year 12 or equivalent or Certificate III attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2020
• halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018
• at least halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students’ Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.

Progress towards these targets is discussed in Part 6.3: Senior school and transitions – attainment, and Part 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

COAG has also set a target to ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities by 2013.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth


State and territory governments, non-government education authorities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are working in collaboration to close the gap between the outcomes of schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 was developed as a commitment under the Melbourne Declaration and as a part of the COAG reform agenda to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The action plan was approved by education ministers in 2010 and endorsed by COAG in 2011.

The action plan focuses on six priority areas identified as having the greatest impact on closing the gap:

• readiness for school
• engagement and connections
• attendance
• literacy and numeracy
• leadership, quality teaching and workforce development
• pathways to real post-school options.

The action plan seeks to bring together existing commitments made through the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) and the National Education Agreement, and builds on commitments by governments for structural reforms in early childhood education, schooling and youth engagement.

Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan, a key group of focus schools are identified as sites for specific action. The Investing in Focus Schools Project is a $40-million initiative over two years from 2012. Funding was provided as a one-off payment to states and territories under a project agreement. The initiative supports approximately 300 government and non-government schools (selected by states and territories) to complement and accelerate implementation of local actions in the Engagement and connections; Attendance; and Literacy and numeracy domains of the action plan.

The Next Steps Focus Schools Initiative is an Australian Government commitment of $30 million under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000. The two-year funding, finishing in 2014, assists 101 schools (selected by states and territories) to address the attendance, engagement and educational achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Annual reports for 2012, 2011 and 2010 on progress against the action plan are available on the SCSEEC website.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have also benefited from the national partnership agreements in literacy and numeracy, low socio-economic status school communities, improving teacher quality and youth attainment and transitions. These agreements are for all Australians, but have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific measures. Information on these partnerships is included in Part 2.1: National initiatives and achievements – developing stronger partnerships.

More information on initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth is available in the annual reports on the action plan and the Australian Government’s Indigenous website. Information on schooling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in 2013, including relevant key performance measures and performance indicators under the Action Plan, is provided in Part 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

Low socio-economic status school communities


All governments have agreed that they have mutual interest in and shared responsibility for improving educational outcomes in low socio-economic status (SES) school communities and in supporting reforms in the way schooling is delivered to those communities.

The National Partnership for Low Socio-economic Status School Communities aimed to facilitate improvements within targeted schools and communities to improve student learning, engagement and wellbeing and to foster active participation of the community.

This national partnership was scheduled to run from 2008-09 to 2014-15 and included $1.5 billion in Australian government funding, to be matched by states and territories. Approximately 1,790 schools participated in the program, which ceased in December 2013. Unallocated funds were redirected to needs-based funding arrangements in the Australian Education Act 2013, applying from January 2014.

The needs of students from low socio-economic backgrounds (whether or not they attend a school participating in the Low Socio-economic Status School Communities National Partnership), as well as those experiencing other forms of educational disadvantage, have also been addressed in the national partnerships for literacy and numeracy and for improving teacher quality. Information on these partnerships is included in Part 2.1: National initiatives and achievements – developing stronger partnerships.

The National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions, which included the Compact with Young Australians and the National Youth Participation Requirement, also addressed outcomes for educationally disadvantaged young Australians. In particular, the Youth Connections Program provided an individualised service to support those most at risk of disengaging from education, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. These initiatives are outlined in Part 2.5: National initiatives and achievements – supporting senior years of schooling and youth transitions.






¹ The Melbourne Declaration and national data collections use the term ‘Indigenous’ to refer to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Where possible, this report uses ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ in preference to the term ‘Indigenous’

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