Our shared commitment
Every Aboriginal person achieves their potential, succeeds in life, and feels strong in their cultural identity.
A quality education includes a place of learning that is responsive, welcoming and supportive. Creating culturally inclusive learning environments is vital to ensuring Aboriginal students feel safe and supported to achieve their learning aspirations.
Goal 4: Aboriginal children thrive in the early years
Measures under Goal 4 have continued to improve.
High quality early childhood education gives children the best start in life and provides important opportunities to learn and develop.
An estimated 100% of eligible Aboriginal four-year-olds are enrolled in kindergarten and there has been a steady increase in eligible children participating in Early Start Kindergarten.
Kindergarten participation rates for Aboriginal children are based on relatively small population estimates with a margin for error.
The following measure relies on datasets that are infrequently collected. No new data was available at the time of reporting.
- Measure 4.1.3 Proportion of children vulnerable on one or more domain on the Australian Early Development Census.
Data for this measure is available on the Data Dashboard, which can be accessed via the First Peoples – State Relations website.
Goal 4 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 3: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are engaged in high quality, culturally appropriate early childhood education in their early years
- Target 3: By 2025, 95% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are enrolled in preschool in the year before full time schooling.
Outcome 4: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive in their early years.
- Target 4: By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to 55%.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
Outcome 3: Nationally in 2021, 96.7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Year Before Full time Schooling (YBFS) age cohort were enrolled in a preschool program.
Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target shows good improvement and is on track to be met. Victoria is now focused on improving preschool attendance rates.
Outcome 4: In 2021, 34.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across Australia commencing school were assessed as being developmentally on track in all five Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) domains, compared to 35.6% in Victoria.
Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target is worsening. In Victoria, based on progress from the baseline, this target shows improvement.
4.1 Optimise early childhood development and participation in kinder
Measure 4.1.1 Number and proportion of eligible children enrolled in a funded four-year-old kindergarten program in the year before school
In 2020, an estimated 100% of Aboriginal four-year-old children were enrolled in a funded kindergarten program. This is higher than the enrolment rate for all children.
Measure 4.1.2 Number of children funded to participate in Early Start Kindergarten
There has been a steady increase in the number of Aboriginal children participating in the Early Start (three-year-old) Kindergarten program.
In 2020, 977 Aboriginal children were participating in Early Start Kindergarten, up from 952 in 2019.
Goal 5: Aboriginal learners excel at school
Measures under Goal 5 have continued to improve.
Safety and connection to school are critical to increasing engagement and outcomes for all learners. While positive trends are emerging in relation to several of the below measures, there is a need for continued focus to accelerate improvement.
The following measures rely on data from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. No new data was available at the time of reporting.
- Measure 5.1.1 Percentage of students in top three bands – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9
- Measure 5.2.2 Student attendance rates in government schools.
Data for these measures is available on the Data Dashboard, which can be accessed via the First Peoples – State Relations website.
Closing the Gap – Relevant Outcomes and Targets for Goal 5
The National Agreement does not contain outcomes and targets that align with this VAAF goal. Victoria is pursuing more ambitious and comprehensive goals under the VAAF, which are reported on in this chapter and the Data Dashboard.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
5.1 Bring Aboriginal achievement at school in line with learners' aspirations
Measure 5.1.1 Percentage of students in top three bands – Reading and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in Years 3, 5, 7
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was no NAPLAN conducted in 2020, and therefore data is unavailable for this year’s report.
5.2 Increase the proportion of Aboriginal students who feel safe and connected at school
Measure 5.2.1 Proportion of students who feel connected to their school
Although slightly improved on 2019 outcomes for most year levels, connectedness to school varies substantially across year levels for Aboriginal students, as it does for all students. Students feel more connected in primary school than they do in secondary school.
Measure 5.2.2 Student attendance rates in government schools
Due to the different arrangements for schooling across the country that were put in place in response to health advice, attendance data was inconsistent across states and territories. As a result, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) did not publish student attendance data in 2020.
Measure 5.2.3 Number of Aboriginal people on school councils
The available data indicates that 264 Aboriginal people were on school councils in 2020. This data cannot be reliably compared to previous years due to differences in completion rates. In 2020, a much lower number of Victorian government schools participated in the School Survey than in previous years with only 77% (1,187) of schools providing a complete response in 2020, compared to 95% (1458) in 2019 and 99.7% in 2018.
Measure 5.2.4 Proportion of students who report bullying at school
As with non-Aboriginal students, reports of Aboriginal students experiencing bullying are more frequent in primary school, with 22.0% of Aboriginal students in Years 4–6 reporting they experienced bullying in 2020. These numbers decrease in secondary school, however Aboriginal students continue to report significantly higher rates of bullying than their non-Aboriginal peers.
Measure 5.2.5 Number and proportion of school-based Aboriginal education workers across all schools
As at 30 June 2021, 0.4% of all school based education workers identify as Aboriginal.
Measure 5.2.6 Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language
The number of Aboriginal language programs in Victorian schools has grown significantly since 2008, with particularly strong numbers since the launch of Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan in 2016. New Aboriginal language training courses introduced as a commitment under Marrung will increase the availability of Aboriginal language teachers to meet the demand of schools interested in offering an Aboriginal language program.
Measure 5.2.7 Number of government schools having undertaken Community Understanding and Safety Training (CUST)6
In 2020, 137 campuses received Community Understanding and Safety Training (CUST). CUST continued to be delivered virtually in this period if existing relationships ensured the training fidelity was not compromised. However, face-to-face delivery of CUST is considered the best model to achieve the program aims, including the fostering of relationships. As at February 2022, 77% of all Victorian Government school campuses had undertaken CUST.
CUST builds the capacity of Victorian Government school staff to better support Aboriginal students, including through developing more culturally inclusive practices. Programs such as CUST are an important first step to ensure that schools provide a safe and welcoming learning environment.
Strengthening Professional Capability of Principals in Koorie Education
‘Strengthening Principals’ Professional Capability in Koorie Education’ program (SPPIKE) was successfully piloted to 108 school staff in 2019-2021. SPPIKE equips school leaders to have challenging conversations, actively engage the school community and promote positive cultural identity and excellence in schools. The program supports school and systems transformation that includes and promotes Koorie culture as a fundamental element of the Victorian education system. It seeks to develop school leaders’ capacity to incorporate traditional knowledge and perspectives into ways of being and use them to enhance all students’ learning experiences. Through this professional development program, school leaders are supported to develop the tools to enhance their leadership capacity, challenge their assumptions and contribute to the critical mass of leaders, creating a positive climate for change in education.
Wimmera Marrung Project
In the Wimmera Area in central-western Victoria, on Wotjobaluk, Wergaia, Jupagalk, Jaadwa and Jadawadjali Country, the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-Operative and the Department of Education and Training have established a partnership in response to the significant issue of chronic school absence among the Aboriginal cohort in the Wimmera.
To gain the perspective of families, Goolum Goolum surveyed parents and carers of four schools. The project partners reviewed the survey findings against attendance data across the area.
It was identified that, while symbolic actions such as flying the flag and acknowledging Traditional Owners were seen as important, this was not sufficient to make Aboriginal families feel welcomed and respected. Rather, schools that held regular informal meetings, morning teas and other events specifically for Aboriginal families to connect with each other and with school leadership, had Aboriginal absence rates of just over 20%, compared to nearly 60% in schools without these informal engagement opportunities. Families reported that, at schools with more informal engagement opportunities, they felt comfortable contacting the school when issues arose, Aboriginal culture was more likely to be embedded in the curriculum, and staff were more likely to contact families with positive stories about their children.
Schools actively worked to improve relationships with Aboriginal students and their families based on the feedback from the community. In 2021, the partners began working with four focus schools to review the survey findings and develop a logic model that focuses the work of each school on students absent more than 20% of the time. The approach is showing promise, with measurable improvement for several individual students.
Options to engage a full-time facilitator in 2022 are being explored to enable the impact of this work to be scaled up by working intensively with schools to embed the approach.
Side by Side Partnership Addressing Disadvantage program
The Side by Side Partnership Addressing Disadvantage program aims to improve attendance, engagement and educational outcomes for disadvantaged children in the early years of primary schools at participating schools. It provides intensive support including tutoring for students to improve their capacity to engage with learning and improve literacy skills, and intensive outreach services for families. The program also provides professional development and whole of school training for participating schools, focusing on supporting schools to provide a culturally sensitive, trauma aware model of education. An innovative partnership model between Berry Street, DET, the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF), Social Ventures Australia and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) delivers the program.
Goal 6: Aboriginal learners are engaged at school
Measures under Goal 6 have continued to improve.
Education is well recognised as a key social determinant of health. Higher education levels also support increased access to safe and healthy housing; healthy lifestyle choices such as regularly eating fruit and vegetables; and lower likelihood of smoking.
Aboriginal people who complete Year 12, or a higher qualification, are more likely to be employed, to work full-time, and have higher skilled jobs than early school leavers.
Apparent retention rates for Aboriginal young students in Years 10 to 12 continue to improve, however there was a slight decrease in the number of Aboriginal students who completed a VCE, VCAL or VET Schools Certificate compared to 2019.
The following measure has not been featured in the Report, as 2021 Census data was unavailable at the time of reporting.
- Measure 6.1.1 Proportion of young people aged 2024 with Year 12 or equivalent
This measure is reported through the Data Dashboard, which can be accessed via the First Peoples – State Relations website.
Goal 6 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 5: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students achieve their full learning potential.
- Target 5: By 2031, 96% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 20–24) attain a Year 12 or equivalent qualification.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
In 2016, 63.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20–24 years had attained Year 12 or obtained a non-school qualification at Certificate III or above across Australia, compared to 69.6% in Victoria.
This target relies on Census data. No new data was available at the time of reporting.
Koorie Outreach Support Program
An example of Aboriginal-led service design and delivery, the Koorie Outreach Support Program (KOSP), was instigated and implemented by the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI). This was in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated periods of remote learning on Aboriginal learners and families. VAEAI identified the community need, and the Department of Education and Training provided a lump sum payment to fund the delivery for six months, with high engagement and successful outcomes. The department funded the continuation of the KOSP during 2021 after VAEAI identified ongoing community need.
In delivering the program, VAEAI engaged additional Aboriginal staff to provide outreach services to Aboriginal community members across Victoria. The additional staff determined local needs and facilitated access to essential supports required for continued engagement or re-engagement with education across early childhood education, schools and adult education.
This work was complemented by direct funding of selected kindergarten services with high numbers of Aboriginal children in 2021 to support the re-engagement of Aboriginal children in kindergarten and their transition to school. VAEAI was a key partner in the design of this initiative.
6.1 Increase Year 12 or equivalent attainment
Measure 6.1.2 Apparent retention rates for students in Years 10 to 12
While more Aboriginal young people are completing Year 12, there remains a disparity in apparent retention rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners, with the gap in 2020 being 18%.
Measure 6.1.3 Number of Aboriginal students who complete the VCE, VCAL or VET in Schools Certificate
In 2020, 677 Aboriginal students completed a VCE, VCAL or VET Schools Certificate compared to 688 Aboriginal students in 2019.
Goal 7: School leavers achieve their potential
Measures under Goal 7 have continued to improve.
The proportion of Aboriginal Year 12 completers going on to work, higher education or training has continued to grow over the past decade.
The following measures have not been featured in the report, as 2021 Census data was unavailable at the time of reporting.
- Measure 7.1.2 – Proportion of 17 to 24-year-old school leavers participating in full-time education and training and/or employment
- Measure 7.1.4 – Proportion of 20 to 64-year-olds with qualifications at Certificate III level or above
These measures are reported through the Data Dashboard, which can be accessed via the First Peoples – State Relations website.
Goal 7 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 6: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students reach their full potential through further education pathways.
- Target 6: By 2031, 70% of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people aged 25–34 years have completed a tertiary qualification (Certificate III and above).
Outcome 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are engaged in employment or education.
- Target 7: By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (15–24 years) who are in employment, education or training to 67%.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
Target 6: In 2016, 42.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25–34 years had completed non-school qualifications of Certificate III or above) across Australia, compared to 56.5% in Victoria.
Target 7: In 2016, 57.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 years were fully engaged in employment, education or training across Australia, compared to 65.4% in Victoria.
These targets both rely on Census data. No new data was available at the time of reporting.
7.1 Increase the proportion of Aboriginal young people in work or further education
Measure 7.1.1 Destinations of Year 12 completers
The proportion of Aboriginal Year 12 completers in education or training remained at a high in 2020. 32.5% of Aboriginal Year 12 completers were undertaking a Bachelor degree at university, 16.4% were undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship and 13.9% were completing a certificate or diploma. This is a total of 62.8% of Aboriginal Year 12 completers undertaking further education or training in 2020.
Of those not pursuing education or training, the majority of people were employed (23.2%). However, 14% of Aboriginal Year 12 completers were looking for work or not in the labour force in 2020 – an increase on both 2018 and 2019. Of this 14%, 12.1% were looking for work and 1.9% were not in the labour force, education or training.
Promote uptake of apprenticeships
Apprenticeships Victoria provides opportunity for people of all backgrounds to find their path to a rewarding career, targeting groups that are traditionally under-represented in transport and construction industries, including Aboriginal people.
Big Build Apprenticeships is Apprenticeships Victoria’s flagship program to create high-quality skills pathways for apprentices and trainees. Currently 25 Aboriginal apprentices are supported, working across major projects, comprising 17 men and 8 women. Qualifications include business, civil construction, plumbing, electrical and carpentry, on sites such as North East Link Project and the new Footscray Hospital.
Measure 7.1.3 – Proportion of 18 to 24-year olds participating and completing tertiary education
VET participation and completion rates remain steady for Aboriginal students.
Measure 7.1.5 Proportion of 20 to 64-year-old government-funded and total VET graduates employed and/or in further study after training
Although slightly fewer Aboriginal VET graduates were employed and/or pursuing further study in 2020 than 2019 (82.7% in 2020, compared to 85.9% in 2019), more Aboriginal VET graduates were employed and/or pursuing further study than their non-Aboriginal peers.
Measure 7.1.6 Proportion of graduates and cadets employed in VPS; retention, progression and satisfaction
The Victorian Public Service (VPS) provides a key employment pathway for Aboriginal Victorians. Between 2017 and 2021, 350 Aboriginal Victorians were employed in the VPS as graduates or cadets. Of these, 318 (90.8%) completed or are on track to complete their respective program.
Domain 2: Victorian Government Investment and Action
The Victorian Government is driving action through Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016–2026 (Marrung) to ensure that all Aboriginal Victorians achieve their learning aspirations.
The key Aboriginal Governance Forum for realising outcomes in this Domain is the Marrung Central Governance Committee.
The 2021/22 State Budget funding supported six initiatives across the early childhood, schools, and training and skills sectors.
Koorie Literacy and Numeracy Program
- The Koorie Literacy and Numeracy Program funds schools to provide additional support for Koorie students in Prep-Year 6 who are below expected reading and numeracy benchmarks.
- 2021/22 State Budget funding increased the ongoing envelope enabling the program to meet increased demand due to the growing number of Koorie learners in schools.
Koorie Pre-school Assistants Program
- Koorie Pre-School Assistants (KPSAs), based in ACCOs, provide support to services on cultural inclusivity and engagement of Koorie children and families.
- 2021/22 State Budget funding provided for an ongoing increase of support in 15 locations (including four new locations) across the state. This increase was originally funded for one year through the 2020–21 State Budget.
Balert Gerrbik: Koorie Families as First Educators
- Balert Gerrbik, delivered by ACCOs in five locations, is an evidence-based, culturally safe parenting support program that seeks to build a positive home learning environment for Koorie children.
- 2021/22 State Budget funding enabled the ongoing provision of this initiative, which was originally funded for four years through the 2017–18 State Budget.
- Locations were selected based on need, including consideration of the out-of-home care system admission rates and access to other early childhood and parenting programs.
Aboriginal Self-determination in Education
- Following the Victorian Government’s commitment to progressing Aboriginal self-determination, this initiative acknowledges that Aboriginal people are best placed to advise on the reforms required to make the education system more inclusive and responsive to Aboriginal learners.
- 2021/22 State Budget provided funding for an 18-month state-wide consultation and co-design process to develop reform options that progress Aboriginal self-determination in education.
- This includes speaking to Aboriginal community members and organisations, students, families, and schools, including options for schools to formally partner with Aboriginal community organisations through:
- Conversations hosted by ACCOs and/or Traditional Owner groups.
- 100 conversations hosted by schools and service networks in partnership with their local community, students, and families.
- Specific workshops for Aboriginal students and young people.
- Marrung Area Forums on self-determination in education in all DET Areas.
- 45 Koorie Education Roundtables led by VAEAI.
Koorie Engagement Support Officer Program
- Koorie Engagement Support Officers (KESOs) work with families, communities, education and service providers to support Aboriginal learners to participate fully in education.
- 2021/22 State Budget funding provided for an ongoing increase of 16 KESOs, in areas identified by need. This increase was originally funded for one year through the 2020–21 State Budget.
- These roles are in addition to the approximately 111 ongoing KESO and 9 Koorie Education Coordinator positions that operate throughout Victoria.
Aboriginal Languages Training Initiative
- 2021/22 State Budget funding supports the licensing and contextualisation of two new nationally accredited courses, Certificates II and III in Learning an Australian First Nations Language and ongoing delivery of the Certificates to a cohort of up to 20 students per year.
In addition to the above 2021/22 State Budget initiatives, a number of other key initiatives are contributing to improved engagement and outcomes for Koorie learners:
- Community Understanding and Safety Training (CUST) continues to be rolled out to all government schools, delivered by the Koorie Education Workforce, to ensure a positive learning environment for Koorie students and promote the vibrant living cultures of First Nations People.
- The Victorian Curriculum F–10 embeds Aboriginal perspectives across all learning domains.
- Koorie Education Children’s Court Liaison Officers support Koorie students who appear before the Children’s Koori Court to better engage or re-engage with education.
- Thirty-two new Koorie Student Support Officer roles, two in each Victorian TAFE/Dual Sector Institute, commenced in 2021, providing direct support to Koorie students. These roles are in addition to the existing 17 Koorie Liaison Officer (KLO) positions within the Victorian TAFE network. These positions provide additional targeted support to Koorie students and allow the KLO the opportunity to concentrate on strategic support to TAFEs.
The following system-wide reforms and initiatives also provide important support for Aboriginal staff and learners:
- Funded three-year-old and four-year-old kindergarten is continuing to support Aboriginal children to attend kindergarten by providing access to 15 hours of free or low-cost kindergarten a week.
- The Tutor Learning Initiative is reaching Koorie students that need support to catch up on their learning.
- The Schools Mental Health Fund and Menu is a new support for schools, ensuring mental health and well-being is a core part of a student’s experience at school. The menu will include an option for schools to engage with registered ACCOs regarding culturally appropriate and evidence-based mental health support for Aboriginal learners.
- Disability inclusion reform is strengthening how children and young people with disability are welcomed and engaged in school. It introduces a tiered funding model for students with disability, with additional funding for schools to help these young people achieve their full potential at school and in life.
- LOOKOUT provides support to children in the out-of-home care system to access and engage in kindergarten and school.
- Navigator helps students at risk of or who have disengaged from school to continue their education.
- Free TAFE is expanding Aboriginal Victorians’ access to training and employment opportunities. The initiative covers tuition fees for eligible students undertaking priority courses, including non-apprenticeship courses and apprenticeship pathway courses. Free TAFE enrolments by Aboriginal students increased by 36% from 2019 (705) to 2021 (959). Highest enrolments are in community services, nursing and early childhood education and care courses.
- The Koorie Education Workforce (KEW) program aims to strengthen cultural safety by reducing the often exceptionally high cultural load on existing Aboriginal staff, and support schools in increasing Aboriginal inclusion and engagement.
- The Marram Nganyin Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program, funded by DFFH, provides Aboriginal young people with support, encouragement and practical assistance to achieve to increase engagement in school, training employment and career pathways.
6 Formerly ‘Cultural’ Understanding and Safety Training