Upskilling Indigenous students to improve educational outcomes

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Support for Indigenous students from regional, rural and remote areas helps boost educational outcomes.

TAFE NSW is upskilling Indigenous Australians in remote and regional areas as Student Learning Support Officers and Aboriginal Education Officers, aiming to improve learning outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. 

Funded by the Australian Government’s Away from Base program, TAFE NSW Petersham has delivered a Certificate IV in School-Based Education Support to students from across the state. Away from Base provides financial assistance for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students who are eligible for ABSTUDY but need to travel 90 minutes or more to attend training.  

The students attended TAFE NSW Petersham campus for 10 one-week blocks over the 12-month duration of the course. Following graduation, the majority are now working as either Student Learning Support Officers or Aboriginal Education Officers in schools and community education services or are continuing further study at university. Additionally, those already employed in education support roles have gained formal qualifications, further enhancing their learning support skills. 

One such student who was previously living in Central West NSW is Patricia Daniel, an Aboriginal Education Officer at Busby Public School in Liverpool.

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“I had been working as an Aboriginal Education Officer for the past 18 years, but I wanted to enhance my skills and learn additional strategies for supporting students’ individual needs,” Daniel says.

“Now that I have this qualification under my belt, I feel more confident in my role. I can provide further support to Indigenous students and their families while organising engaging and fun events that enhance learning outcomes and strengthen community ties.”

Daniel was recently nominated for a Gili Award and praised the quality of the training, highlighting the support and professionalism of the TAFE NSW teachers. 

“The training was fantastic,” she says.

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“We had the best teachers who were incredibly supportive, helpful, and professional. It was a joy as an older person in their 50s to engage in study and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was also wonderful to learn alongside people who share a similar passion for learning support.”  

Aboriginal Education Officer Patricia Daniel

Supporting students’ learning

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Childhood Education Kristen Graziani says TAFE NSW is dedicated to nurturing Aboriginal Education Officers and Student Learning Support Officers, ensuring they have the skills they need to support student’s learning and development. 

“There’s a strong correlation between the work of Aboriginal educators and improved educational outcomes for Indigenous students,” Graziani says.

“We’re pleased that TAFE NSW can provide opportunities for Aboriginal Education Officers and SLSOs to access training, even in rural and remote areas. These people play a vital role in making a difference in the lives of children and young people in NSW schools.” 

Daniel says the students enrolled in the course are often already working in the field.

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“Accessing training through the Cert IV in School-Based Education Support equips them with further skills that empower them with practical strategies and the knowledge to be successful School Learning Support Officers (SLSOs) or Aboriginal Education Officers. (AEOs). Students also gain a formal certification of Cert IV in School-Based Education Support,” she told EducationDaily.

“The next steps in their career pathway can include team leader opportunities in support learning and working as an education support worker in community education services or pursuing further training in education at university.”

Confidence-building encourages further study

Students benefit from AEOs and SLSOs (School Learning Support Officers) being well-equipped with the knowledge and understanding that is necessary to support those requiring additional assistance, says Daniel.

“These officers are provided with resources to help them in their roles, as well as a clear understanding of school systems, policies, and procedures. This enables SLSOs to effectively support the entire student population. Moreover, their continuous professional growth enhances the overall learning environment, contributing to better educational outcomes for all students.”

The benefits also flow on to the schools themselves.

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“Student Learning Support Officers and Aboriginal Education Officers are equipped with an understanding of current evidence-based practices that can be applied in their day-to-day jobs,” Daniel told EducationDaily.

“The Certificate IV also helps them build confidence for further studies in education.”

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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]