NT faces crisis in Aboriginal teacher shortage

NT faces crisis in Aboriginal teacher shortage

Australia's ongoing teacher shortage is particularly acute among Aboriginal educators, posing significant challenges for the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students.

In late 2023, the federal government launched the "Be That Teacher" campaign to expand the teaching workforce. However, there is a pressing need for measures specifically designed to appeal to Aboriginal students and communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students made up 39.3% of the student population in the Northern Territory (NT) in 2023, the highest percentage across Australia. Nationally, they represent 6.5% of all students. Despite this, there were only 260 registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers in the NT in 2020, comprising a mere 4.6% of the teaching workforce.

By June 2024, this number had declined to 163 Aboriginal teachers, senior teachers, and principals in the public system, according to the NT Department of Education.

Researchers from Charles Darwin University are currently investigating how to motivate more Aboriginal individuals to pursue teaching careers through a survey. Aboriginal teachers bring essential cultural knowledge and representation to schools, creating a more conducive learning environment for Aboriginal students.

When asked about their interest in becoming teachers, most Aboriginal students responded negatively. One student described school environments as "mentally damaging," suggesting that young people would be more inclined to teach if they felt accepted in their schools. Other reasons for disinterest included different career aspirations, a general lack of enthusiasm for school, and negative perceptions of their teachers' attitudes towards the profession.

Students also expressed a need for more information about the teaching profession. One student mentioned the desire to understand "how to be a teacher," while another suggested engaging students by explaining the benefits of helping young people.

A recurring theme in the research is the importance of role models. Students noted that teachers who display passion for their work and focus on student success could inspire them to consider teaching.

As for Aboriginal teachers, they emphasized that personal experiences and role models significantly influenced their decision to enter the profession. Positive school experiences or a desire to provide better education than they had received were cited as motivating factors.

For others, the answer is as simple as wanting “to combat racism.”