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Indigenous Education Funding Crisis

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) of the Uniting Church, is warning of a further decline in national Indigenous education in light of recent survey findings by Australian Education Union (AEU).

The (AEU) survey shows a marked reduction in direct Commonwealth Indigenous education funding of nearly $2 million dollars to 561 schools since changes were made in the Indigenous Education Targeted Assistance Amendment Bill 2004, late last year.

UAICC National Administrator, Rev Shayne Blackman who chairs Townsville based Indigenous boarding school Shalom Christian College said the (AEU) findings were suggestive of a Government that was increasingly becoming misaligned to their responsibilities in improving Indigenous educational outcomes.

“What we are experiencing is a national crisis in Indigenous education and an urgent need for the Government to carefully listen and then proactively respond with a targeted and straightforward enhancement of funding for educators, programs and Institutions who are at the interface with Indigenous students” said Rev Blackman.

“What is needed is an expansion, not a narrowing of educational support schemes for schools with a large Indigenous population and this includes funding for the development of curriculum, programs to encourage and support attendance, parental engagement programs, literacy and numeracy development and employment of support staff.

“As an example of this narrowing, in 2004, 78% of the schools which responded to the (AEU) survey said they had an Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness Program (ASSPA) committee in place which is in direct contrast to the situation today, with only 9% of respondent schools indicating that they have received approvals to run the replacement program, the Parent School Partnership Initiative (PSPI).

“This unfortunate situation is magnified with Government induced changes to the Aboriginal Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ATAS) which has left 2745 Indigenous students with no access to this once critical and highly effective one to one tutorial support scheme.

“Changes to these and other important Indigenous programs are symptomatic of a broader divide occurring between Government rationalism through mainstreaming and the desire of aspiring Indigenous students and their educators to have their concerns embraced and acted upon.

“We have raised these and other Indigenous educational funding concerns with the relevant bodies on a number of occasions and we continue to stress the urgency and importance of resolving these administrative arrangements otherwise our efforts to provide a first class education to Indigenous students will continue to be undermined.

“We wish to work collaboratively with the Government to drive forward educational opportunity and pathways forward for all Indigenous students but this is proving difficult when the Government fails to fully acknowledge and then respond to the needs of those proven institutions skilled in facilitating quality Indigenous education” said Rev Blackman.