Is this election ignoring the education needs of vulnerable regional and remote Indigenous boarding students?
INDIGENOUS VOICES AND APPROPRIATE FUNDING ARE THE
For many young Indigenous people from the bush there are few education options other than to leave their family and country to become boarding students in unfamiliar cities, large distances from home.
However, there have been a number of reports released and many boarding schools are advising that the government funding for Indigenous student boarding is inadequate. Many Indigenous boarding facilities remain open thanks to goodwill and finding funding from other non-sustainable sources to provide opportunities for the 90% of students who don’t have scholarships.The funding gap is suggested to be between $7,000 and $12,000 per student per annum.
However, educational success also relies heavily on parents’ support, involvement and commitment.
‘I know from many years experience in Indigenous education and boarding that Indigenous parents highly value the education and care their children receive in boarding. However, they are often disconnected from the school and don’t have a voice. Rectifying this and giving Indigenous parents a genuine voice and the assistance they need to support their children is also critical to successful educational outcomes.’ A “National Voice” whereby Indigenous people are at the forefront in terms of education and boarding is long overdue and required.
INDIGENOUS EDUCATION IS NOT WELFARE
For 50 years these Indigenous students’ rights to a quality education has largely been treated as welfare through ABSTUDY benefits rather than through educational funding.
‘Education isn’t welfare, it is a fundamental right. Why isn’t boarding for Indigenous students funded as education and resourced appropriately?’ says Anthony Bennett, Chairperson of Indigenous Education and Boarding Australia.
‘If Australia is to close the education gap for students from the bush we need to stop ABSTUDY being administered as a welfare payment and become genuine about supporting educational opportunities for Indigenous students from outside of our major cities.’
STANDARDS FOR THE VULNERABLE STUDENTS
Young Indigenous people are amongst the most vulnerable in our community. They are disproportionately likely to be in care, in contact with police, in poor health or at risk of taking their own lives.
‘Education is the key and for students from remote and regional Australia, a boarding education is the only key they have. We need our politicians of all persuasions to commit to bringing in standards and closing the education gap for vulnerable Indigenous boarding students,’ says Mr Bennett.
While the boarding sector does an admirable job of providing a caring and stable environment for Indigenous students, there isn’t a recognised national standard for Indigenous students in Boarding.
‘Standards are fundamental to quality. The House of Representatives has called for standards and as the government hasn’t acted, Indigenous Education and Boarding Australia is prepared to take the lead rather than allow more cases like those reported to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse to continue to occur,’ says Mr Bennett.
‘However, in order to bring about much needed reform we will need active government support. Therefore we call on all major political parties to commit to the urgent development of an Indigenous Cultural Boarding Standard,’ Mr Bennett says.
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