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Learning and skills

Our shared commitment

Every Koorie person achieves their potential, succeeds in life, and feels strong in their cultural identity.

Education is well known to be linked to improved wellbeing and increased equity, with kindergarten and schooling a critical starting point to set Aboriginal children up for life.

Culturally-supportive and responsive learning spaces are vital for creating an environment where Aboriginal students feel supported to achieve their learning aspirations and excel.

Goal 4: Aboriginal children thrive in the early years

4.1 Optimise early childhood development and participation in kinder


  • 4.1.1 Number and proportion of eligible children enrolled in a funded 4-year-old kindergarten program in the year before school
  • 4.1.2 Number of children funded to participate in Early Start Kindergarten
  • 4.1.3 Proportion of children vulnerable on 1 or more domain on the Australian Early Development Census

The last 10 years have seen a steady rise in the number of Aboriginal children and families participating in early childhood education.

Maintaining access to these programs, and ensuring mainstream services are culturally-safe and inviting for Aboriginal families, is key to addressing developmental vulnerabilities in the years before school.

Four-year-old Aboriginal children are enrolled in kindergarten in the year before school at a high rate and on par with their non-Aboriginal peers1, and the number of 3-year-old Aboriginal children participating in Early Start Kindergarten is steadily growing. This means more Aboriginal children are experiencing the benefits of early learning and development than ever before, which is likely to have a positive impact on reading and numeracy outcomes for Aboriginal learners in coming years. The increase in kindergarten enrolment reflects the Victorian Government’s action to improve access to early childhood services such as supported playgroups and kindergarten programs, while recognising and supporting Aboriginal families as the first educators of their children.

Despite these gains, Aboriginal children are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in 1 or more domains of the Australian Early Development Census2 in their first year of education compared to non-Aboriginal children. This reiterates the need to ensure early childhood education is inclusive and culturally-safe to ensure Aboriginal children can meaningfully participate.

1. ABS population estimates based on the 2011 Census have been used to calculate the 2018 Aboriginal kindergarten participation rate to maintain consistency with previous years and to reflect the rate published in the Victorian Budget 2019-20 Budget Paper No. 3. The Department of Education and Training has since recalculated this rate using rebased population estimate based on the 2016 Census. Using this data, the 2018 Aboriginal kindergarten participation rate is 92.4%. Backdating data from previous years to show the trend is not currently possible but will be included in 2020 reporting.

2. The domains of developmental vulnerability include physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; communication skills and general knowledge.

Goal 5: Aboriginal learners excel at school

5.1 Bring Aboriginal achievement at school in line with learners’ aspirations


  • 5.1.1 Percentage of students in top 3 bands - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPALN) in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9

For Aboriginal students, there have been substantial improvements in Literacy in Years 3 and 5 from 2008 to 2018, as well as in Numeracy in Year 9 in the same period. This shows a very positive trend that Aboriginal student performance in NAPLAN is continuing to improve in Victoria. Despite these improvements, Aboriginal students continue to be represented in the top 3 bands for NAPLAN at a substantially lower rate than their non-Aboriginal peers in all school years. Furthermore, Aboriginal children’s rate of learning for both Numeracy and Literacy decelerates sharply between Years 3 and 7.

This signals the need for increased learning support, particularly during the transition from primary school to secondary school.

It is important to note that NAPLAN data does not provide a full picture of Aboriginal achievement at school, but can provide useful information on school performance in supporting Aboriginal students.

Additional support for Aboriginal students

Aboriginal students from Prep to Year 6 who are not meeting expected levels in Literacy and/or Numeracy are provided with additional supports through the Koorie Literacy and Numeracy Program. In 2018 this program supported 1,784 Aboriginal learners across 598 Victorian Government schools.

5.2 Increase the proportion of Aboriginal students who feel safe and connected at school


  • 5.2.1 Proportion of students who feel connected to their school
  • 5.2.2 Student attendance rates in government schools
  • 5.2.3 Number of Aboriginal people on school councils
  • 5.2.4 Proportion of students who report experiencing bullying at school
  • 5.2.5 Number and proportion of school-based Aboriginal education workers (principals, teachers, education support staff) across all government schools
  • 5.2.6 Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language
  • 5.2.7 Number and proportion of government schools having undertaken cultural understanding and safety training

It is important for children and young people to feel connected and supported in their school environment. While Aboriginal children in all year levels reported feeling less connected to their school in 2018, the difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children is relatively low. Broadly, students report high levels of connectedness in primary school, which drops substantially by Years 10 to 12.

Improving school connectedness for Aboriginal secondary school students requires learning environments to be inclusive and culturally-safe. Action is underway under Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026 (Marrung) to improve the inclusivity and cultural safety of schools, including through Aboriginal language programs and cultural understanding and safety training.

Making learning environments more inclusive and safer could also help to reduce absenteeism, which remains high for Aboriginal children across all years.

In 2018, Aboriginal students in all school year levels experienced higher rates of bullying than their non-Aboriginal peers, and concerningly, more than a quarter of Aboriginal students in Years 7 to 9 reported having been bullied.

A key part of reducing Aboriginal students’ experience of bullying and ensuring they are safe at school is promoting opportunities for Aboriginal communities to participate in decision-making within schools, including through representation on school councils, as well as schools attracting and retaining Aboriginal teachers.

As at June 2018, 0.3% of all school-based full-time equivalent (FTE) education positions were staffed by Aboriginal Victorians. Aboriginal Victorians are well represented in education support roles (0.7 per cent) but are underrepresented in teaching and principal roles (0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively) given 0.8 per cent of Victorians identify as Aboriginal.

Another important element to ensure Aboriginal students feel safe and connected is schools undertaking cultural understanding and safety training. At the end of 2018, 23% of all Victorian government schools had undertaken this training, and all Victorian government schools will have undertaken the training over the next 3 years.

An increasing number of Victorian schools and early childhood services are also working with community to deliver Aboriginal language programs. Language programs can play a key role in strengthening students’ pride and connection to culture and identity as well as increasing non-Aboriginal students’ awareness of and respect for Aboriginal culture.

Cultural safety indicators 2018

Number of Aboriginal people on school councils   164

Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language   14

Number of school-based Aboriginal education workers (FTE positions) (at 30 June 2018)   189 (0.3%)

Number of government schools having undertaken cultural understanding and safety training   339 (23%)

5.2 Increase the proportion of Aboriginal students who feel safe and connected at school


  • 5.2.6 Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language
  • 5.2.7 Number and proportion of government schools having undertaken cultural understanding and safety training

Supporting Aboriginal languages

Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026 (Marrung) commits to increasing the number of Aboriginal language programs in Victorian kindergartens and schools, in partnership with Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) and the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.

As part of the Early Childhood Language Program, Aboriginal languages will be taught in around 30 Victorian early childhood services. Additionally, in 2018, 14 Victorian Government schools delivered Aboriginal language programs to over 1,800 students including Bruthen Primary School who won the 2018 Victorian Education Excellence Award for Outstanding Koorie Education.

This is being accompanied by support to build the Aboriginal language teacher workforce. Language initiatives in schools are introduced with the support of Aboriginal teachers and Elders following the approval of Traditional Owners and consultation with local communities and can support the reclamation and revival of Victorian Aboriginal languages.

The Victorian curriculum also includes Aboriginal perspectives as a cross curriculum priority for all schools.

In 2019, the Department of Education and Training celebrated the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages by supporting Aboriginal teachers from schools and Certificate III participants to attend PULiiMA Indigenous Languages and Technology Conference.

Cultural Understanding and Safety Training

As part of Marrung, the Victorian Government is working to create a culturally-safe, high quality education system. Increasing cultural competency in learning environments through Cultural Understanding and Safety Training (CUST) is a key part of Marrung.

CUST is delivered in close collaboration between the Victorian Government, VAEAI and other ACCOs who provide advice on how to embed local Aboriginal perspectives, cultures and histories into the school curriculum.

This initiative seeks to ensure a learning system where Aboriginal cultures, knowledges and experiences are celebrated by all. It also seeks to build stronger relationships between schools and the Aboriginal community and ensure that all schools are safe, responsive and respectful of Aboriginal students and their families so that all Aboriginal learners are engaged and excelling throughout their schooling years.

By the end of 2018, 339 Victorian Government schools had undertaken CUST (23% of all Victorian Government schools). The training will be taken up by all Victorian Government schools over the next 3 years.

Goal 6: Aboriginal learners are engaged at school

6.1 Increase Year 12 or equivalent attainment


  • 6.1.1 Proportion of young people aged 20-24 with Year 12 or equivalent
  • 6.1.2 Apparent retention rates for students in Years 10 to 12
  • 6.1.3 Number of Aboriginal students who complete the VCE, VCAL or VET in Schools Certificate

More Aboriginal young people are staying in school and achieving increasingly better educational outcomes.

The gap in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates is trending towards parity with the proportion of Aboriginal people aged 20-24 having completed secondary school increasing from 56.4% in 2006 to 71.3% in 2016. Over the same period the gap in attainment between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people has also decreased from 30.0 per cent to 19.2 per cent.

More Aboriginal students are completing a Year 12 or equivalent qualification than ever before. The number of Aboriginal students who completed the VCE, VCAL or VET in the Schools Certificate more than doubled from 2011 to 2018.

Despite this positive trajectory, there continues to be disparity in apparent retention rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners. However, the gap is improving, narrowing from 26.2% to 17.4% between 2010 and 2017.

Goal 7: School leavers achieve their potential

7.1 Increase the proportion of Aboriginal young people in work or further education


  • 7.1.1 Destinations of Year 12 completers
  • 7.1.2 Proportion of 17-24-year-old school leavers participating in full-time education and training and/or employment
  • 7.1.3 Tertiary education participation and completion:
  • 7.1.3a: VET participation rate
  • 7.1.3b: university participation rate
  • 7.1.3c: VET course completion rate
  • 7.1.3d: university course completion rate
  • 7.1.4 Proportion of 20-54-year-olds with qualifications at Certificate III level or above
  • 7.1.5 Proportion of 20-54-year-old government-funded and total VET graduates employed and/or in further study after training

The proportion of young Aboriginal people engaged in education, training or employment has grown significantly across the last decade.

According to the On Track survey, in 2018 Aboriginal Year 12 completers were more likely to go on to do a Bachelor degree, apprenticeship or traineeship or be employed and were less likely to be looking for work than they were in 2009.

Of the 65% of Aboriginal Year 12 completers surveyed in 2018 that went on to further education and training, half undertook a Bachelor degree at university, while half chose vocational education and training.

Compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts, young Aboriginal Year 12 leavers are more likely to go on to do an apprenticeship, traineeship, certificate, diploma or be employed, rather than go to university, straight after finishing Year 12.

In 2016, just over half (53.8%) of young Aboriginal people were fully engaged in full-time education and training and/or employment. However, this is 22.0% lower than for non-Aboriginal young people.

Supporting young Aboriginal people into careers

The Department of Education and Training is developing resources to support employers to provide workplace learning (Work Experience, Structured Workplace Learning, School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships and Volunteering) opportunities to students. The main purpose for these resources are to:

  • engage and encourage employers to provide meaningful workplace learning opportunities to all students
  • provide guidance and support to ensure that employers provide a fair, inclusive and safe working environment, comply with legal regulations and obligations and meet the needs of all students regardless of circumstance or background.

The resources will include information that is universal to all students as well as specific information to support employers to provide opportunities for Aboriginal students. The resources will be available in November 2019 and will be disseminated to industry and employers, schools and relevant stakeholders.

In 2018, 3,615 Aboriginal Victorians aged 18-24 were participating in VET studies, while 287 Aboriginal Victorians of this age group were participating in university studies. Since 2016, this represents a 24.2% increase in university participation for Aboriginal Victorians and a 4.1 per cent increase in VET participation over the same period.

The proportion of the Aboriginal population aged 18-24 participating in VET studies in 2018 was more than twice the rate of their non-Aboriginal peers (44.6% and 20.2%, respectively), while participation in university studies was around the same (3.5% and 3.1%).

In 2018, 731 Aboriginal Victorians aged 18-24 completed VET studies, while 60 Aboriginal Victorians completed university studies. Since 2016, this represents a 7.1% increase in university completions for Aboriginal Victorians and a 25.0% increase in VET completions over the same period.


For this Report, participation is defined as the number or proportion of Victorians aged 18-24 who were enrolled in courses at a university or vocational education training (VET) provider within a given calendar year.


For this Report, completion is defined as the number or proportion of Victorians aged 18-24 who completed and were awarded tertiary qualifications at a university or VET provider within a given calendar year.


For this Report, VET includes: Technical and further education (TAFE) institutes; Community education providers; Enterprise providers and private training providers. Schools based VET is excluded.


For this Report, a university includes education training providers that are accredited to deliver courses at Level 7 (bachelor degree minimum) of the 2013 (current) Australian Qualification Framework.

Supporting pathways to further education, training and employment is key to ensuring Aboriginal Victorians can navigate the future world of work. This requires communities, educators, families and industry working together to build aspirations through the provision of high-quality career education. Key to this is ensuring Aboriginal people are supported to access education and employment opportunities at all stages of life.

Between 2006 and 2016 the proportion of Aboriginal Victorians aged 20-64 with qualifications at Certificate III level or above increased by 16.5%, a faster rate increase compared with their non-Aboriginal peers. However, the proportion of Aboriginal people with a Certificate III level qualification or above is still 16.2 per cent lower than non-Aboriginal Victorians.

In 2018, after completing their training, 85.4% of all Aboriginal VET graduates were employed and/or pursuing further study, a small increase from 2016 and very similar to their non-Aboriginal peers.

The Victorian Public Service is providing a key employment pathway for Aboriginal Victorians. Between December 2017 and June 2019, 157 Aboriginal Victorians were employed in the Victorian Public Service as graduates or cadets. Of these, 116 (73.9%) have completed or are on track to complete their respective employment program.

Action the Victorian Government is taking

The Victorian Government is driving action to ensure that all Aboriginal Victorians achieve their learning aspirations through Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026.

Marrung covers a range of priority areas including a positive climate for learning and development, driving innovative ways to improve outcomes in local communities, as well as professional leadership in ensuring success of Aboriginal learners, and achieving excellence in teaching, learning and development at all stages. Action across these areas will ensure Aboriginal children thrive in their early years, are engaging at school, and are supported to excel and achieve their full potential.

When students are engaged in class, they learn more. Marrung sets out strategies for raising literacy and numeracy achievement and offers a roadmap for delivering inclusive, culturally-competent and responsive curriculum to all Aboriginal students.

Marrung’s success relies on the active involvement of local Aboriginal communities and education services providing culturally-safe learning environments. Marrung has been developed with and continues to be governed by key Aboriginal organisations including principal partner VAEAI.

In early childhood education the Victorian Government is continuing to support Aboriginal children to attend kindergarten through providing 3 and 4-year-old children with 15 hours of free or low-cost kindergarten a week. The Victorian Government is also taking a community-led approach to ensure inclusive and culturally-safe spaces for Aboriginal children and families. From 2019, 30 kindergartens will be funded to deliver an Aboriginal languages program through the Early Childhood Language Program.

In schools, Marrung is driving a range of improvements for Aboriginal learners, including through providing additional needs-based funding targeted to Aboriginal primary school students, efforts to improve attendance and a focus on building inclusive school environments for Aboriginal students.

To provide improved support for Aboriginal learners undertaking further education and training, the Victorian Government, in partnership with VAEAI, is developing options to support Aboriginal learners to engage and participate successfully in VET, including through the redesign of the existing Aboriginal VET workforce.

The Victorian Government is also delivering Free TAFE for Priority Courses, covering tuition fees for priority courses for students who are eligible for government-subsidised training. This includes 40 non-apprenticeship courses and 20 apprenticeship pathway courses which will benefit Aboriginal learners.