Indigenous school attendance has been an issue for decades. In a recent speech in the NT Assembly, the Member for Nhulunbuy Yingiya Guyula tried to explain the reason for chronic non-attendance. he said it has top do with the dismantling of bilingual education and as paucity of Aboriginal school principals and teachers.

This in a country where learning depends on keen knowledge of English as our country’s language of transaction.

Yingiya Guyula’s speech about attendance issues is an excuse and not a reason for chronic absence of children from school. Over the past 30 years, millions, indeed tens of millions of dollars have been spent on school attendance programs. The problem continues as the major reason why indigenous children are well behind the schooling eightball. Unless and until parents and communities recognise and manage the problem, under-education will remain a major issue.

The issue is not one that can be fixed by external agencies. The fix HAS to come from home and community. This is a statement of absolute fact.

Chronic school non-attendance by indigenous children is an issue of sad reality, both historically and in a contemporary context. The issue MUST be owned by parents and families. Handballing will not work because it is their problem.

There ARE ways of ensuring school attendance in communities. Ways based on a reasoned and interactive approach between school and community. I know that for an absolute fact because I worked in communities for a good number of years in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The reality is that no one who is responsible for contemporary education wants to know what works. They prefer the trial and fail mode.

Mr Guyula’s speech was made in the NT Assembly on Wednesday May 8 2019.


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