Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group (the Group) provides advice to the ACT Government on education and training matters that affect Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, parents and communities.

The focus of the group is to engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and provide advice that assists the Directorate in policy formulation, program facilitation and implementation.

The Group is made up of nine members – four Parent Members, four Organisation Members representing local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisations and higher education centres, and one Education Directorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network member.

Roles and responsibilities of the Group include:

  • Promoting and modelling parent and community engagement in education and encouraging parent/caregiver participation in community consultation processes about education through formal and informal conversations, community forums, community yarns, etc;
  • Provide advice to the Minister for Education, ACT Education Directorate (the Directorate) and the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (through the Director General’s regular meetings with the Elected Body Education Representative) on the educational needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Provide insight and advice on key strategic issues, policy formulation and delivery of support services and programs in ACT public schools; and
  • Represent the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community at the National Indigenous Education Consultative Body network and associated meetings and communicate key issues and actions to the Directorate as appropriate.

Secretariat support to the Group is provided by the Education Directorate’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section.

To contact the Group, please email ATSIEAG@act.gov.au.

The Directorate reports annually on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education in ACT public schools. The reports reflect the Education Directorate’s commitment to meeting the needs and aspirations for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The reports are available from the Publications page

Cultural Integrity describes the environment a school creates to demonstrate both respect and high regard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, knowledge systems and languages; welcome and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and local community members; meet the learning needs and aspirations of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

We are creating positive learning environments high expectations in our schools, who will work with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and students to identify their cultural integrity priorities.

From 2018, ACT public schools are progressing in the next stage providing support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Cultural integrity represents a break from the negative discourse that has dominated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education for many years. Cultural Integrity is positive and constructive, that benefits the whole school community through developing knowledge and understanding. ACT school leaders will be change agents building a culture of high achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and ensuring improved cultural integrity is a priority.

Current research strongly suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enjoy greater success when they can see their perspectives in culture and languages reflected in the curriculum and school environment. People come from all over Australia and the world to live and work in Canberra, which means school communities – including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families - vary greatly. That’s why students and all school staff benefit from knowing their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and school leaders learning how that community would prefer to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and shared history reflected in their local school. Engaging with families and community is integral to building the cultural integrity with each community.

From 2018 schools have access to a new suite of resources, framed around a self-assessment continuum. The continuum has drawn on the latest evidence and research, which says that to build their Cultural Integrity schools should focus on four dimensions:

  • Engagement with families and community;
  • Teaching with Cultural Integrity;
  • Leadership, celebration and environment; and
  • High expectations and successful transitions.

The Student Aspirations Program promotes participation in leadership opportunities and supports the retention and attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, focusing on pathways and transitions.

Contact the Senior Program Officer on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Scholarships are available to Senior Secondary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students interested in a career in teaching or the health field, or in attaining a vocational qualification post-year 12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Scholarships are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled in an approved teaching or health course at either the University of Canberra, the Australian National University or the Australian Catholic University, Signadou Campus.

Contact the Senior Program Officer on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

The Education Directorate also employs 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (IEOs) who work across 11 ACT public schools. From 2018 IEOs will support schools to build their Cultural Integrity by:

  • Supporting schools to engage with families and community;
  • Supporting teachers to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum;
  • Providing advice and leadership to schools on celebrating significant events and milestones for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Supporting schools to grow a culture of high expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and
  • Facilitating successful student transitions between year levels, between schools and to post school study or work.

The ACT Directorate’s Koori Preschool Program provides 3-5 year old children with rich, play-based experiences aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework, in a culturally safe environment that includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum. Koori Preschools operate at the following school sites:

  • Ngunnawal Primary School;
  • Kingsford Smith School;
  • Narrabundah Early Childhood School;
  • Wanniassa School; and
  • Richardson Primary School.

Each Koori Preschool operates over two days. In addition to enrolment in Koori Preschool, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can enrol in their local preschool.

The Koori Preschool Program works closely with the ACT Child and Family Centres to develop strong partnerships with families, support parent engagement in children’s learning, increase enrolment and attendance, and link families with other programs that strengthen community and cultural connections.

Children from birth to three years can attend a Koori Preschool when accompanied by a parent or guardian, enabling greater family engagement and supporting transition to formal schooling.

For further information, please contact the Early Childhood Education Officer on (02) 6207 1106.

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