SCHOOL ATTENDANCE THE NUMBER ONE EDUCATIONAL ISSUE

Closing the educational gap means that Indigenous Australians have to grasp the nettle

A quality called ‘self help’ needs to be part of the equation. Closing the gap on education and everything else is not going to happen until and unless Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Communities get behind their challenges and commit to improvement. Sitting back and waiting for this to somehow evolve will not work and is not working.

I believe self-help is happening in some instances but by no means in the majority of cases. There are reasons for why this is an ongoing issue. The matters are not going to be solved until such times as non- Aboriginal persons in authority stop appealing to indigenous people in term of asking ” have you got a problem I can own?”

A case in point is the issue of school attendance. No attendance = no school = no learning. So the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, senator Nigel Scullion, came up with the idea of employing Indigenous Truancy Officers in the NT and other parts of remote Australia to get children to school. The overall cost – well over $50 million.

There are ways in which school attendance can be managed, so that attendance is enhanced. Throughout my years as a school leader in remote area schools in both WA and the NT, attendance issues were managed in a way that minimised the problem. The matter was my responsibility and I worked to sell the need for regular attendance to the community. People came on board with my selling of the attendance message.

I smile inwardly – and with some sadness – when hearing of the ‘Nigel’s Army’ of truancy officers approach. That initiative costing close to $40,000,000 over two or three years has, in overall terms, made only a sight indentation on the attendance issue. I believe another $28 million or thereabouts has been promised to extend the program. There are reasons why this approach has not worked. Part of that has been the absence from duty of some truancy officers! I believe a solution exists but for it to work would require a U-turn in present policies.

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