Education and training

When they've gone on to complete secondary school … they've been able to go on to university; they've been able to go into professional positions; they've been able to go into trade positions. They've been able to make choices about what careers and what lives they will lead.

- Geraldine Atkinson, President Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated


More Aboriginal students are completing school than ever before. However, lower school attendance and NAPLAN achievement rates indicate on-going challenges to improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. The key to improving these outcomes lies in addressing issues of equity, access and inclusiveness throughout the education system.

The Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016­–2026, developed in partnership with the Aboriginal community, envisions Victoria as a place where all Aboriginal people achieve their learning aspirations and realise the full benefits of the Education State reforms across early childhood, schools and further education.

Headline Indicator 4. Improve literacy and numeracy for Aboriginal students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9

Target: Halve the gap for Aboriginal students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018.

Fewer than 90 Aboriginal students for every 100 non-Aboriginal students meet NAPLAN benchmarks on average. This has been resistant to change.

Despite significant gains in school retention, fewer than 90 Aboriginal students for every 100 non-Aboriginal students meet NAPLAN benchmarks on average. NAPLAN takes place every year and assesses Australian school students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across 4 domains: reading; writing; language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation); and numeracy. Between 78 and 91 Aboriginal students for every 100 non-Aboriginal students met minimum attainment thresholds for literacy and numeracy across years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

The achievement gaps in NAPLAN performance widen across successive years. In 2016, 87.3% of Aboriginal Year 3 students met the minimum standard for literacy compared to 96% for non-Aboriginal Year 3 students. By Year 9, the proportion of Aboriginal students who met the NAPLAN minimum benchmark for literacy dropped 5.7 percentage points (to 81.6%), while the percentage of non-Aboriginal students who met the benchmark at Year 9 was only 2.3 percentage points less than the Year 3 cohort. Since 2008, there have been minor fluctuations in the percentage of Aboriginal students achieving national minimum standards in NAPLAN tests; however, changes do not indicate an ongoing trend of improvement or decline. The key to doing better lies in supporting strong community-led responses to support mainstream schools to provide culturally safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments for Aboriginal students.

The Early Years Koorie Literacy and Numeracy Program provides targeted support for Aboriginal students not meeting the expected level in reading and numeracy in Prep to Year 3.

The Extended Koorie Literacy and Numeracy Program provides targeted support to eligible Aboriginal students in Year 4 not meeting the national minimum standard in reading and/or numeracy. Support will be extended to students in Years 4 and 5 in 2018, and in 2019 students in Years 4, 5 and 6 will be eligible for support.


The loss of language symbolises the loss of culture. For us young mob and our future generations, the survival and revival of our languages is imperative to our very being.

- Bridget Caldwell, writer and artist

Other measure: School attendance rates for Aboriginal students.

While more Aboriginal students are staying in school, absenteeism remains a significant issue. By Year 9, the gap in attendance equates to Aboriginal students receiving 6 months less schooling than their non-Aboriginal peers. This statistic remains unchanged since 2008.

Higher rates of absenteeism of Aboriginal students continue to be a challenge. The lack of improvement in the attendance gap over the last eight years, and importance of school attendance in improving student outcomes, suggests that increased effort is required to make schools inclusive and safe spaces for Aboriginal students. Community-led programs that promote cultural safety and celebrate Aboriginal cultural identity are vital to reducing absenteeism and improving education outcomes for Aboriginal students.

Reclaiming language

This is recognition of language revival and the importance of Aboriginal languages.

- Aunty Gail Smith, Wurundjeri Elder

Per cent of school year absentees - 2016 government schools

Reclaiming and reviving language is one way the Victorian Government and community partners are working to promote and celebrate Aboriginal culture in schools. The 2017/18 Victorian Budget allocated funding for the development and pilot of an accredited Aboriginal languages program to assist Aboriginal community speakers of language to develop their teaching skills. The investment is in line with Marrung’s vision to increase the number of Aboriginal language programs across Victoria. More than 1,000 students are currently learning an Aboriginal language in a formal school-based languages program. In 2016, 6 Aboriginal languages were being taught in seven schools across Victoria to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, from primary school through to Year 12.

Headline Indicator 5. Increase the proportion of Aboriginal young people who have completed at least Year 12 or equivalent

Target: Halve the gap between the Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal 20–­24 year olds by 2020.

From Kindergarten to Year 12, more Aboriginal children and young people are staying in school.

In 2016, 99.8% of Aboriginal young people completed Year 10, putting Aboriginal Year 10 student retention at parity with other Victorian students. Year 12 or equivalent rates suggest a similar trend towards parity. Since 2008, the gap in Year 12 attainment rates narrowed by almost half, from a 24 percentage point gap in 2008 to a 13 percentage point gap in 2014–­15.

Apparent retention to Year 10

Policy directions

Research shows equitable education outcomes result in lower income inequality. Community-led programming is key to maximising education outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, promoting greater intergenerational mobility and ensuring the Aboriginal community and the wider Victorian community can benefit from the unique potential of the next generation of Aboriginal Victorians.


Navigator is a service pilot designed to support young people aged 12­–17 years not connected to school or at risk of disengaging. Piloted in eight locations across Victoria, Navigator’s wrap-around support includes tracking and monitoring progress, reporting on outcomes, identifying gaps in local services and supporting planning to address these gaps.

LOOKOUT Education Support Centres

LOOKOUT Education Support Centres support children and young people in out-of-home care to stay at school and do well in their education. LOOKOUT Centres employ Koorie cultural advisors, allied health workers and educators within their multidisciplinary teams to ensure that every child in out-of-home care has an Individual Education Plan, a Student Support Group and a Learning Mentor.


Other measure: The rate of transition of Aboriginal young people aged 18­–24 years to employment and/or further education.

Right now, Year 12 is seen as the final destination. If we are going to push our students to Year 12, we need to be thinking about how to support them after they leave school.

- Lionel Bamblett, General Manager Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated

According to the On Track 2016 survey of school leavers, Aboriginal school leavers were more likely to go on to full-time work and less likely to commence further education or training. Those that did go on to further education and training were more likely than non-Aboriginal students to choose vocational education and training over a bachelor’s degree at university.

Promoting pathways to further study or training opportunities for Aboriginal school leavers is key to ensuring Aboriginal school leavers are positioned for success when they enter the job market. This includes working with the Aboriginal community, industry groups and schools to embed and support access to further education, training and career advice.

Koorie Liaison Officers are employed in Victorian TAFE institutes to provide support to Aboriginal students and enhance inclusion. Wurreker Implementation Plans are a requirement of every Victorian TAFE institute and outline strategies to support improved outcomes for Aboriginal students, improved Aboriginal employment within the institute and a positive learning environment.

Through the Wurreker Strategy, the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) supports increased engagement in vocational education and training by facilitating Aboriginal community engagement with training providers and industry.

Toorong Marnong Victorian Higher Education Accord is a partnership initiative between VAEAI and the Victorian Vice Chancellors Committee. Toorong Marnong delivers several initiatives to support the participation and retention of Aboriginal students.

The Toorong Marnong Hotdesk is available annually each December, upon release of ATAR results to provide Aboriginal school leavers access to advice about university enrolment, options and career pathways.