Keep remote education strong

Help us ensure remote students' right to access all levels of education

In 2013 the Giles Government commissioned consultant Bruce Wilson to carry out a review of Indigenous Education in the NT. He described remote education as an almost universal failure and proposed sweeping changes to the delivery of education in remote Indigenous communities, in particular:

  • The removal of secondary programs from almost all remote schools
  • Encouraging secondary students to attend boarding schools or regional high schools
  • Placing priority on English-only instruction, at the exclusion of Aboriginal languages
  • The introduction of the controversial Direct Instruction literacy and numeracy program at a number of schools

Many AEU members (as well as prominent individuals and organisations) responded to Wilson's review and criticised his assumptions, his dismissal of inconvenient evidence and many of his conclusions and recommendations. For example, he never addressed the resourcing deficit that afflicts all remote schools due to the bipartisan policy in the NT of funding schools based on attendance rather than enrolment.

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About the Indigenous Education Review

The CLP government accepted the recommendations of the review in full and is now moving to implement massive changes in the delivery of remote education. The Government said nothing about this before the election and thus has no mandate. Our major concerns are that these changes are happening with minimal consultation or concern for the views of those affected. For example, there is no guarantee of continuing to offer secondary provision in remote schools beyond this year, apart from at Sheperdson College, Maningrida, Alyangula, Gunbalanya and Jabiru.

The Giles Government claims the changes are about giving students and families more choice. But by forcing students to attend school interstate or in larger towns or cities, the Government is removing a key option for those who wish to remain in a community or homeland environment.

In their eloquent submission to the review [PDF], William Fogarty and Mick Dodson made the following point: 

"...the choice to access residential and boarding facilities as an educational option should be exactly that: a choice. Furthermore, such a choice should be made as an educationally and socially informed decision by parents and community members. It should not be mandated by what education administrators believe is the best for Indigenous students, nor should it be made as a result of the withdrawal of alternative services. The report's recommendation that the use of residential facilities become a core component of education for Indigenous students should be subject to serious public and academic debate before being implemented. There is no engagement in the report with the following question: if students are not currently attending local secondary schools, how will they be persuaded to attend boarding schools. And if they do not, what then? Are they to be consigned to a lesser educational model based in Vocational Provision? Is this acceptable? If so, to whom?"

Valid concerns such as these were ignored, and the Department of Education is now proceeding with major changes without consultation:

  • The construction of a $20 million boarding facility in Nhulunbuy to house 40 (and ultimately 80) students - due to open by January 2017.
  • The introduction of the Direct Instruction program in 15 remote schools without any community consultation - the program is likely to expand to another five schools in 2016.
  • Refusal to guarantee secondary provision from 2016 onwards for most remote schools.

Why is this a major concern for Territory education?

  • Aboriginal voices have been excluded from the development of Indigenous education policy in the NT.
  • Bruce Wilson's review was not genuine; he ignored evidence he didn't like and his central proposals reflect the political views of the Country Liberal Party.

Our policy on the Indigenous Education Review

The AEU NT adopted the following resolutions with respect to the IER at our 2015 Branch Conference:

That the AEUNT demand that DOE engage in open and transparent communications with remote schools and communities immediately about the proposed changes to comprehensive remote secondary education provisions for 2016 as stated in the Indigenous Education review.

That the AEU NT calls on the NTG Minister of Education to engage in an open and transparent communication with the relevant stakeholders regarding the compulsory relocation of Indigenous senior secondary schools students from existing facilities on country.

That the AEU NT rejects the refusal of the NT Government to provide adequate primary and secondary Education to regional Northern Territorians. The United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples Article 14 reads:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.
3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individual, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

The AEU NT calls on the NT Government to:
• Guarantee to all students the right to access all levels of education, without discrimination.
• Immediately explain to Indigenous communities the Indigenous education boarding school plans.
• Guarantee the future of all remote schools.
• Consult with the union about teacher and support staff jobs.

What actions are we taking?

The AEU is campaigning to ensure that secondary provision is not removed from remote communities where there is a clear desire for secondary schooling to continue. We are continuing our campaigns on school funding and Gonski to ensure that remote schools are funded in the manner required to foster success.

What actions are we taking?

We actively seek to improve Australian education, both locally and nationally


Our membership are passionate about education issues whether locally, nationally or globally. Support us to ensure the future of Territory education.

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