How these NSW teachers are empowering Indigenous youth

How these NSW teachers are empowering Indigenous youth

Across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students face significant challenges impacting their academic and career outcomes. These include lower retention and completion rates, coupled with reduced academic performance in national assessments like NAPLAN, and highlight a persistent gap that schools, governments and communities have been struggling to close.

Recent studies have shown that attendance issues and limited access to higher education are further exacerbating these disparities. As a result, Indigenous Australians experience higher unemployment rates and often secure lower-paid, less secure jobs.

While various programs have been rolled out to bridge these gaps, experts have highlighted the need for tailored support, cultural safety, and enhanced educational and employment opportunities to make any meaningful difference in improving outcomes for Indigenous students.

Empowering Indigenous youth

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.

“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 said.

“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.”

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

“The training was fantastic,” Daniel said. “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.” 

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Childhood Education Kristen Graziani said 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 said.

“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.”

The original version of this story appeared as a media release from TAFE NSW.