By Susannah Christensen
A record number of Aboriginal teens are graduating high school, which local experts attribute to regular attendance and increased parent and kinship engagement with schools.
There’s been a 10-per-cent jump cent in Aboriginal high school graduation rates according to recent stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The figures from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey show a marked improvement since 2002.
Dr Bryn Roberts, executive director at Koya Aboriginal Corporation, says regular school attendance is key in a child’s academic outcome and their likelihood to graduate.
Koya is an Aboriginal community-service and research corporation in Fremantle that heads the Kinship Empowerment Program (KEP), a community-action group dedicated to raising Aboriginal kids’ attendance rates in primary schools, starting as young as kindy.
“Aboriginal people indicate the reason their kids aren’t attending school is because the school is not culturally secure enough,” Dr Roberts says.
Dr Roberts says schools have to protect and respect Aboriginal rights and values to be culturally secure atmospheres for students and families.
He says in the next two weeks, KEP will be holding workshops about cultural security in schools, focusing on parent and guardian-teacher engagement.
KEP’s ‘kinship champions’ are parents, elders, or well-connected community figures employed by Koya to engage with their communities and encourage school attendance among Aboriginal primary school kids.
“Once we get some feedback from our kinship champions, we will approach the heads of schools to see how we can enhance the attraction of schools to these children,” Dr Roberts says.
“It has to be a partnership,” he says.
The Office of the Auditor General released a report last year showing 65-percent of Aboriginal students at some educational risk due to non-attendance.
Natasha Farrell, communications head at OAG, says children who miss school are at the greatest risk of broader disengagement.
“[Non-attendance] can affect employment, welfare dependence, and likelihood of committing a crime, and even increase the risk of suicide,” says Ms Farrell.
Dr Roberts says although there are attendance programs specifically aimed at high school students, every day missed in primary school counts.
“By the time the children we are working with reach high school, they will be up-to-date with their peers, and be equipped to graduate high school and pursue higher education,” says Dr Roberts.
Join Emma Castle from Koya as she explains how the organisation is making a difference.