Australia-first report reveals Indigenous students’ educational outcomes strengthened through new programs

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Aurora students on camp with Elder and Mentor Uncle Charlie Mundine.
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The Aurora Education Foundation (Aurora) has today released its inaugural 2024 RISE Impact Report, publishing first-of-its-kind insights about what works in Indigenous education. 

RISE is an Australia-first Indigenous education initiative that launched in 2021. It delivers and evaluates three distinct programs to encourage Indigenous student outcomes. All programs deliver tutoring at a minimum, with the most intensive program providing a comprehensive set of in-person interactions, including camps, tutoring, engagement days, and Elder and Indigenous mentor support. 

The 2024 RISE Impact Report is available to read now via the Aurora website.

Early findings illustrate that when students are supported through RISE, there is a significant increase in self-confidence, educational aspirations and cultural knowledge, with Aurora staff and mentors also having a direct impact on students deciding to complete the HSC versus other education pathways.

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Change is overdue

“Australia’s education system was not developed with Indigenous people in mind – it really is as simple as that,” Jesse King, Head of Policy and Programs at Aurora, told EducationDaily.

“While small pockets exist, more broadly within the education system Indigenous perspectives,  values and aspirations have not been taken into consideration in the design of education programs,  policies, institutions and curricula.” 

Mr King says Indigenous education data has long been captured and interpreted by non-Indigenous people to tell stories about the failure of Indigenous students. 

“And Indigenous people have been excluded from determining their own preferences and priorities in the development of education policy,” he told EducationDaily.

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“As you’ll see in our RISE Impact Report, these obstacles are not imagined, but backed by decades of government reports and Indigenous-led research and analysis.” 

Closing the gap

Finding ways to address and remove these obstacles, is, says Mr King, critical.

“There is an immense body of work that spotlights the ‘gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student outcomes.”

While he believes that research alone should be incentive enough, Mr King says it is complicated because it also misrepresents the problem, “by often failing to cast the spotlight back on the system, making it even more critical to dismantle the obstacles that stand in the way of Indigenous student success”. 

“Indigenous students deserve an education system that supports and encourages their success in school and beyond and is accountable to them,” Mr King told EducationDaily.

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“They deserve to learn about and celebrate their histories, cultures and languages at school. They deserve to thrive in whatever path they choose.” 

Knowledge of family history and culture matters

Emerging data relating to student experience has found a 116 per cent increase in the proportion of students who knew about their Indigenous family history and culture, a 22 per cent increase in the proportion of students who felt confident in achieving their goals, and a 12 per cent increase in the proportion of students who think a lot about their future goals.

Data relating to parent and carer engagement has found a 176 per cent increase in the proportion of parents and carers who spoke to their child daily about work and study plans, and a 28 per cent increase in the proportion of parents and carers who understood the subjects their child needed to take to go to university. 

Caring for social and emotional development

Insights from extensive analysis about ‘success’ in Indigenous education has also illustrated that supporting the social and emotional development of students was critical to Indigenous students’ definition of success in education, and that Indigenous students and families found that success in education was often in spite of rather than because of Australia’s education system. 

These insights form only part of the 2024 RISE Impact Report, with a suite of outputs, including a unique curriculum, Outcomes Framework and detailed program models set to change the way Australia’s education system supports and encourages Indigenous student outcomes. 

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Governance of RISE data is overseen by Aurora’s independent and external Indigenous Data Governance Committee, composed of five experts in Indigenous Data Governance and education. The Committee is chaired by Euahlayi man, Bhiamie Williamson. The committee is made up of the following members: Noonuccal woman, Dr Karen Martin, D’harawal man Professor Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, Nyungar Goreng woman Gail Barrow and Meriam woman Alex Hohoi. Indigenous Data Governance ensures that all elements of the RISE data life cycle are accountable to Indigenous communities, respectful of Indigenous rights and interests, and promotes Indigenous aspirations for self-determination in education.

Redefining Indigenous success in education

“I am incredibly proud to be launching our inaugural RISE Impact Report, as we work to redefine Indigenous success in education and show what is possible when decisions about Indigenous people and communities are Indigenous-led and governed,” says Aurora CEO Leila Smith.

“Through this report, we’re not just showing what is possible, we’re also showing how it can be possible, and this has huge ramifications for decision makers in government and education. Importantly, this report shows what we’ve been saying at Aurora for years – the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people is limitless. I am excited about the continued impact of this initiative over the coming years.” 

Mr King says his hope for the next five years includes that he “would love to see our students continue to strengthen their culture, confidence and aspirations to support them to navigate what can still be a hostile schooling environment to young Indigenous people. And at the end of the five years, I hope we’ll have clear, data-led insights about what works in Indigenous education, so we can not only show what is possible, but also how this can be made possible across the entire education system”.

To do so, he says the Australian education sector needs to implement a fresh approach, driven by trust. 

“Trust in Indigenous leadership, organisations and communities is key to making this a reality, across  governments and education sector leadership and beyond,” he told EducationDaily.

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“There needs to be trust that, as Indigenous people, we know what’s best for our students and our communities, that families have goals and aspirations beyond school attendance, and that sharing data and Indigenous Data Governance will lead to better outcomes. Trust will lay the groundwork for transformative change.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live