Indigenous Secondary Education: Domination, assimilation or liberation? How can we develop anti-racist diversity in our classrooms?


Access to a ‘good’ education is often argued as deserving of the highest priority. The available research pertaining to the educational experience of Australian Indigenous students, however, too often reflects a picture of profound disadvantage, particularly in relation to their non-Indigenous counterparts. In 2008, Prime Minister Rudd announced $20 million of Federal Government funding for 2000 boarding school places over 20 years, to address chronic levels of underachievement and to prepare Indigenous students to become “workplace P-platers” in an attempt to close the education gap between black and white Australians. Education in Australia, however, is tied to white culture, the industrial economy and the means through which white culture survives, so accepting these places may also have a shadow side in relation to multiple levels of loss and possible cultural alienation. This paper reports on the presenter’s doctoral research which involved a qualitative study of the self-report of an adult sample of Indigenous participants who, as children, left their home communities to attend school. Their experience spans five decades. Despite a high level of diversity regarding culture, location in country and time period, their stories shared many common themes of gain and loss. Some experiences were felt in the moment while others had life-long repercussions, highlighting the need for a loss/gain assessment to be considered across the life span. This paper identifies a number of interventions which may enhance the social, psychological and educational attainment of current and future Indigenous students through developing anti-racist diversity in our classrooms.


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The Author:

Suzanne Jenkins