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Educational equality for Indigenous Australians

Australian Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr David Kemp has called on over 150 education providers meeting from all over Australia to make educational equality for Indigenous Australians a top priority.

Speaking at the first national conference of education providers for Indigenous students, Dr Kemp said it was the right of every Australian to learn to read and write so that they could take part as full and equal citizens in our thriving democracy.

"I challenge conference delegates to encourage the committed and the active and to convince the uncertain that educational equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is an urgent national priority.

"This crucial goal is achievable and it can be reached within a relatively short time with the firm commitment of all Australian governments and those in the wider education community.

"Implementing the national goals for schooling in Australia is not just the responsibility of government but also of schools, Indigenous parents, Indigenous communities and the students themselves.

"To see how the commitment of teachers, parents and the community working together can achieve great results you really have to look no further than Yipirinya Community College, an Aboriginal-controlled school in Alice Springs. Before Dr Brian Gray’s Scaffolding Literacy Project was introduced, few of the children had a reading ability above Year 1. After the Project was introduced, 83 percent of the children could read with 90-100 percent accuracy at a level appropriate for their age.

"Word of these great results spread around the local camps, bringing in children who’d never been to school before.

"The success stories are not just confined to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled at Indigenous community-controlled schools. Since the introduction of the Aboriginal Literacy Programme at Matraville High School in Sydney, the number of Aboriginal children successfully sitting for their Matriculation has sky-rocketed. This year, 12 students sat the exam. That’s one of the highest Year 12 retention rates at one school for Aboriginal students in Australia.

"While there are many other examples of success stories, they all have something in common. The principals, parents, teachers and students have all taken advantage of the funding available to them and taken responsibility for implementing tried and tested literacy and numeracy strategies for Indigenous students.

"The goal is for classrooms that reinforce the culture and heritage of Indigenous students and use these strengths in the learning process. It is up to teachers to develop their skills in teaching Indigenous students and ensuring their classroom materials are culturally appropriate," said Dr Kemp.

The education providers from all over Australia have gathered in Sydney at the inaugural conference to share their success stories with Dr Kemp and each other and also some of the challenges they still face.

Over the next four years the Commonwealth will provide over $520 million in supplementary assistance through the Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programme (IESIP) to education providers to achieve improved educational outcomes.

Since 1997, IESIP funding for Indigenous education providers has been tied to performance agreements to ensure they work towards achieving parity for Indigenous students with the performance levels of other Australian students.

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