Business School Topics
Over 60 per cent of Aboriginal students are not having any meaningful engagement with education, delegates at the Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference have been told.
Alannah MacTiernan, Chairperson of the Martu Schools Alliance, said Australia’s “scandalous acceptance of failure in education” was failing Indigenous children, leaving them without adequate literacy and numeracy skills and destroying their confidence.
“When we look at the [education] results, they are going backwards. Look at NAPLAN testing: in WA, 35 per cent of Aboriginal people at year three level do not even reach the minimum level. And believe me, the minimum benchmark is minimum,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“The problem is that not only are we producing people who are coming out without adequate numeracy and literacy skills to be able to take their rightful place in the community, but we are teaching failure. These kids feel rubbish about themselves. We may be doing better not to provide schools at all because these schools have just become centres of failure.
“We have a couple of generations who have gone through this failed pedagogy so it is not surprising that parents don’t prioritise sending their kids to school.”
Ms MacTiernan called for more accountability from schools and the introduction of new pedagogies, highlighting the work of schools such as Challis and West Beechboro primary schools, where Aboriginal children excel at school and learn to believe in themselves.
Achieving greater education outcomes for Aboriginal students, Ms MacTiernan said, would also help address labour shortages in the north of Australia.
Australia’s north—which comprises 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass and is home to five per cent of the country’s population—could enjoy greater economic development if Aboriginal people were engaged more deeply in the economy.
“We have more than 100,000 Aboriginal Australians who by force of their connection are going to be there. They aren’t going to be there for a five or ten year stint. And it is a tragedy that we have such high levels of unemployment in an area where we are desperately importing backpackers and guest workers,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“We seem to have accepted that Indigenous Australians in the north are economically in a world of their own.
“We need to deal with those issues of education and with the devolution of responsibility. Without deep engagement of Indigenous Australians in Northern Australian development, we will make very little progress.”
Alannah MacTiernan was Deputy Chairman of the Joint House Select Committee on Northern Australia 2013-2016.
The Indigenous Business, Corporations and Enterprise Conference is being held at the UWA Business School on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 December.
Verity Chia (UWA Business School) (+61 8) 6488 1346