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Lifting Learning is...

First Nations educators and students

The Tasmanian Government signed the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration 2019 which commits it to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners to reach their potential, and includes the following statement:

“Educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people remain behind those of other learners in a number of key areas. Meeting their needs and fostering access, engagement, progress, and achievement for their educational performance requires strategic effort and investment.” 

Tasmania has the highest proportion of First Nations students in public schools than any other state at 11.5% of total enrolments while according to the Department of Education, less than one per cent of teachers in our public schools are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

While there have been some targeted improvements toward closing the achievement gap between Aboriginal students and non-Aboriginal students in Tasmanian schools, on average the gap between the two groups of students is widening. 

Supporting cultural awareness and activities both inside and outside of school for First Nations teachers and students is important and under-resourced schools need funding to support engagement in important cultural activities relevant to their school communities. 

There is an urgent need to invest in Aboriginal education in Tasmania and to review and improve policies and initiatives to better support students and teachers. We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are supportd to achieve at higher levels of education the flow-on positive outcomes are many – it’s not just Aboriginal kids that succeed but whole communities benefit.

A central tenet of quality teaching is to “know your students and how they learn”. This means cultural awareness must be mandated for students studying to become teachers and for those already in the system – including support staff. Another fundamental step is to build the level of cultural capacity in our education system. It is vitally important for support staff because they bring their lived experience to the education setting and it helps build more respectful relationships. We need a review to identify the policies that have worked at a national level but that are no longer supported at a state level and develop initiatives to actually deliver on the goals of equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and to ‘close the education gap’.

Lifting Learning

Improve leave arrangements and support for First Nation educators involved in cultural activities inside and outside of school. A review of the effectiveness of the Government’s policies and initiatives in relation to supporting First Nation’s educators and students.