Leading charity marks National Reconciliation Week with call for action

by James Reid31 May 2016

Despite recent improvements, more must be done to support the education of Indigenous students and break the cycle of disadvantage, says a leading charity.
Marking National Reconciliation Week – which runs from 27 May until 3 June – children’s charity, The Smith Family, highlighted the “strong educational outcomes” being achieved by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
In a statement, The Smith Family’s CEO, Dr Lisa O’Brien, said collaboration between schools and communities was a crucial part of the charity’s 2013-2016 Reconciliation Action Plan.
“Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and communities to improve educational outcomes for children and young people is at the heart of this plan,” she said.
“Research shows that completing Year 12, or its equivalent, increases the likelihood that a young person will move into further study or employment and go on to participate fully in their community, with improved employment, health and overall life outcomes.”
The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program helps children engage with their learning through positive educational experiences and provides opportunities to grow skills and access to role models.
Last year nearly 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families were supported by the program, which is proven to boost Year 12 completion rates and leads to improved education, employment and social participation outcomes.
Dr O’Brien said that regular school attendance was critical for achieving positive educational outcomes.
“Just last month we released new research showing strong school attendance rates for Learning for Life students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, at 87.3%,” Dr O’Brien said.
“This is higher than the latest Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, which stated the national attendance rate for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students was 83.2%.”
She added that the charity’s research also showed that 12 months after completing the Learning for Life program, 72.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were engaged in further study, employment or training.
“We celebrate these outcomes in National Reconciliation Week. We know that supporting a child’s education is one of the most effective ways to help them break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage,” she said.
“This is even more critical among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children where educational achievement is significantly lower than other young Australians.”