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Learning and skills

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

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 varied in performance

High quality early education is key to developing lifelong skills. Children should have the opportunity to have the best start in life possible.

Enrolments in funded 4-year-old kindergarten programs have fallen for the first time since program inception although continue to be at parity with non-Aboriginal enrolments. Continuing the historical trend, participation in early-start kindergarten continues to grow.

Data note

Measure 5.2.6 Number of Schools teaching an Aboriginal language

Data has not been collected this year for this measure. Considering the on-going impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, and changes to data collection methods, the Department of Education is currently exploring how it will collect languages data to report on Aboriginal language programs in Victorian government schools.

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 2022, 99.2 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent 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

The number and proportion of eligible Aboriginal children enrolled in four-year-old kindergarten is strong. In the last four years, a greater proportion of eligible Aboriginal children were enrolled in kindergarten than all eligible Victorian children. In 2020, an estimated 100 per cent of eligible Aboriginal children were enrolled in kindergarten the year before school. This has fallen to 92.9 per cent in 2021, which is the same proportion as all Victorian children. The drop might be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns. Under the banner of Koorie Kids Shine, there is a comprehensive engagement strategy to increase enrolments led by the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated, Aboriginal community services, local government, and the Department of Education.

Measure 4.1.2 Number of children funded to participate in Early Start Kindergarten

The percentage and number of children funded to participate in Early Start Kindergarten continues to grow year by year with 1101 Aboriginal children participating in 2021. There was also a much higher percentage increase between 2020 and 2021 than in previous years. This is encouraging as it means more Aboriginal children are starting school earlier and making connections in the classroom and to learning, setting them up well to excel in other school-related measures in the future.

Measure 4.1.3 Proportion of children vulnerable on one or more domain of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC)

The five domains of the AEDC are: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (school-based), and communication skills and general knowledge. Aboriginal children are more than two times more likely to be vulnerable on one or more domain. The latest reporting period occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to home learning. It is encouraging that during this time the proportion of Aboriginal children assessed as vulnerable decreased but more needs to be done to address the discrepancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

An early intervention approach to parenting support for families with young Aboriginal children

Under Balert Gerrbik: Koorie Families as First Educators (KFFE), nine ACCOs across 11 locations are funded to deliver KFFE, which uses an early intervention and prevention approach to deliver culturally safe, evidence-based parenting support programs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, two KFFE-funded ACCOs adapted their service delivery models to support families to remain connected to culture and community, while also supporting their ongoing participation in the Indigenous Triple P parenting support program.

These adaptations included online sessions, telephone delivery using program resources such as the Indigenous Triple P Parent Workbook, and bringing resources to families’ homes in a COVID-safe way. In line with ACCOs’ wrap-around model of family support services, one of these ACCOs also continued to provide support through an online playgroup, giving parents a range of ways to access support under difficult circumstances.

KFFE's intended outcome is improved parenting capacity to support a strong home learning environment. Shorter-term benefits include higher levels of participation in early childhood education and care and positive transition to school.

Goal 5: Aboriginal learners excel at school


Measures under Goal 5 have worsened

School over the past 2 years has been challenging for students. With the impacts of remote learning and disjointed school years, results have worsened for a number of measures with some exceptions.

While NAPLAN testing has shown all year groups (except year 9) improving in literacy, numeracy scores have continued to decline in recent years.

Victorian Aboriginal children are less likely to feel connected to their school or attend school than in the recent past. Aboriginal students in 2021 were also more likely to experience bullying than they were a year ago.

Data note

Measure 5.2.6 Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language - Data has not been collected this year for this measure. In light of the on-going impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, and changes to data collection methods, the Department of Education is currently exploring how it will collect languages data to report on Aboriginal language programs in Victorian government schools.

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

Not applicable.

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
and 9

For Aboriginal Victorian students the 2021 NAPLAN results paint a picture of the difficulties faced during an unusual school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of home learning. There was an increase in the proportion of Aboriginal students in the top three bands across both literacy and numeracy in all year levels (except year 9) between 2019 and 2021. The proportion of Aboriginal students in the top three bands for literacy in year 3, 5, and 7 increased to 55.6 per cent, 45.9 per cent, and 29.9 per cent respectively. This trend was not present in numeracy with reductions in the proportion of Aboriginal students in the top three bands. Only year 5 students have not declined in measures of numeracy.

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

Aboriginal children feel less connected to their school than their non-Aboriginal peers. The proportion of Aboriginal children who feel connected to school has dropped between primary and secondary school. During the period of home learning (2020-21) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of Years 7 to 9 and 10 to 12 who felt connected to their school fell by approximately 4 and 7 percentage points respectively. This trend is not present in primary age Aboriginal students. There may be a multitude of reasons for this. Home learning creates different barriers to connectedness to school beyond existing barriers associated with traditional classroom learning.

Measure 5.2.2 Student attendance rates in government schools

Attendance rates for Aboriginal students are lower than their non-Aboriginal peers. Aboriginal student attendance rates have been gradually decreasing across all year levels over the last 5 years of reporting. The largest decreases in attendance are in the later year levels with the largest drop in year 9 students attendance decreasing 5.6 percentage points over the past 5 reporting years. Historical analysis shows if attendance rates fall below 90 per cent, then students are less connected to the school and at higher risk of disengaging. There are many internal (inside of school) and external (outside of school) factors that influence school attendance, including cultural and economic barriers. More needs to be done to arrest this trend of decreasing attendance rates so that the next generation of Aboriginal Victorians have the best foundation to succeed.

Koorie education at Reservoir East Primary School

Reservoir East Primary School was recognised for Outstanding Koorie Education in the 2022 Victorian Education Excellence Awards. The school is committed to encouraging a strong sense of belonging and identity for their First Nations students and provides a culturally competent, responsive and inclusive learning space reflective of Aboriginal culture and peoples.

Initiatives to improve the educational outcomes of Koorie students place a strong emphasis on First Nations representation in decision-making, and are guided by the Marrung Education Plan. The appointment of the school’s own Indigenous workforce, including education support staff, teaching staff and an Indigenous Liaison Officer, facilitates a strong connection to the Koorie community. This was also demonstrated through their hosting of a Campfire Conversation as part of the Self-determination in Education Reform state-wide consultation.

The school is well-known as culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families. This is evident in the increase in the number of First Nations students enrolled over the last 5 years, increasing from less than 10 students 5 years ago, to the 65 First Nations students enrolled in 2022.

Side by Side Partnership Addressing Disadvantage Program (Side by Side Program)

The Side by Side Program involves a partnership between Berry Street, VACCA, DE, DTF and Social Ventures Australia. The program aims to improve the attendance, engagement and educational outcomes for children facing disadvantage in the early years of primary school, with a priority on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Over the first two years of delivery, the program has supported 63 students, of which 40 per cent identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The full complement of nine partnering schools has been established across three regions in Victoria for 2023.

The key staff groups implementing the Side by Side Program are: teaching staff who are integrated into each school; family and education support workers who work closely with each enrolled family; and trainers who deliver whole-school professional development. All three groups are aligned in order to provide coordinated, wrap-around supports to both families and their schools.

VACCA informed a significant component of the model that ensures the supports provided to families, teachers and schools are culturally inclusive and trauma-informed.

Measure 5.2.3 Number of Aboriginal people on school councils

Between 2020 and 2021, both the number of schools with Aboriginal persons on their school council and the number of Aboriginal persons on council have fallen. This trend is concerning because high student participation is shown to have a positive impact on academic and social development. The number of schools participating in data collection has dropped significantly between 2019 and 2020, and 2020 and 2021; consideration of the reduced population in this measure means that this measure must be used with caution when creating policy.

Measure 5.2.4 Proportion of students who report bullying at school

Bullying is one of the key precipitants for reduced school attendance and consequent disengagement. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a significant drop in the proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students who reported bullying at school. In 2021, the levels of bullying reported rose back to 2019 levels.

In 2021, Aboriginal students were, on average, 1.5 times as likely to report bullying than their non-Aboriginal peers. Aboriginal students in years 7-9 and 10-12 reported rates of bullying 1.6 times higher than their non-Aboriginal peers and students in years 4-6 reported rates 1.3 times higher.

Measure 5.2.5 Number and proportion of school-based Aboriginal education workers across all schools

The number of education workers who identify as Aboriginal has fallen from 247 to 209 between 2021 and 2022.This may be explained by worker burnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the total is still higher than it was pre-pandemic.

Measure 5.2.6 Number of schools teaching an Aboriginal language

Gunditjmara Culture and Language in Schools program

Eight schools in far southwest Victoria have embedded Aboriginal culture and language into their schools through a local language curriculum, the Gunditjmara Culture and Language in Schools program.

Principals at the 8 participating schools began work to start the culture and language initiative in 2019. The participating schools are Bundarra Primary, Bolwarra Primary, Dartmoor Primary, Heywood Consolidated, Narrawong District Primary, Portland Primary, Portland North Primary and Portland South Primary.

In 2020, the schools set their sights on developing a comprehensive curriculum program with professional development for school staff. To do this, they worked with Koorie Engagement Support Officers, Aboriginal staff, Elders from the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Now, the program includes 'On Country' community understanding and safety training (formerly known as cultural understanding and safety training) from Gunditjmara Traditional Owners at the world heritage listed Budj Bim National Park. Additionally, DE has funded a language support officer for the program.

From Term 1, 2021, the language support officer delivered the curriculum for the school, while helping schools integrate the Dhauwurd Wurrung language and culture into their broader programs. The Dhauwurd Wurrung language is used in daily greetings and farewells, formal instruction, word walls, charts, mathematics tasks and teacher instructions. Many students incorporate Dhauwurd Wurrung words into their written work to show their respect for Aboriginal culture and language.

Measure 5.2.7 Number of government schools having undertaken Community Understanding and Safety Training (CUST)6

Between 2020 and 2021, the proportion of schools that undertook Community Understanding and Safety Training has doubled to 280 school campuses in 2021. CUST continued to be delivered virtually during 2020 but face-to-face delivery of CUST is considered the best model to achieve the program aims. Although delivery of the CUST program (both number and proportion) is low comparative to 2018 and 2019, there is significant recovery after the ending of at home learning.

CUST builds the capacity of Victorian Government school staff to better support Aboriginal students, including through developing more culturally inclusive practices. Refresher training is critical to the ongoing cultural safety of Aboriginal students and strengthening a culturally inclusive school environment.

Design and naming of new schools

In 2021 and 2022, the Victorian Schools Building Authority (VSBA) conducted a comprehensive new engagement process to involve Traditional Owners (TOs) in the design phase for new school builds. The approach was designed in consultation with VAEAI and applied to 16 new schools planned to open in 2024 on the traditional lands of the Bunurong, Wadawurrung and Wurundjeri people. Through the engagement process, Koorie cultural knowledge and perspectives informed the design of buildings and landscapes, with the aim of establishing respectful and ongoing relationships. This process is now also being applied to consultations for the 2025 Proposed Future Schools program.

DE has also updated its School and Campus Naming Policy to deliver more widespread use of First Nations languages when selecting school and campus names. The changes will ensure that only Traditional Owner groups will propose Aboriginal language names.

Goal 6: Aboriginal learners are engaged at school


Measures under Goal 6 have worsened

Secondary education can provide pathways to fulfilling career and life aspirations.

Concerningly apparent retention rates for Aboriginal students in year 10 to 12 and the number of Aboriginal students completing their school certificate have declined in the short term while the proportion of Aboriginal young people with year 12 or equivalent has increased.

This can partially be explained through the disruption of two years of COVID-19 and the changes to school delivery.

Data note

All measures under this goal are reported on.

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

Outcome 5: In 2021, 68.1 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20–24 years had attained Year 12 or equivalent qualification across Australia, compared to 72.6 per cent in Victoria.

Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since 2016 (the baseline year).

6.1 Increase Year 12 or equivalent attainment

Measure 6.1.1 Proportion of young people aged 20-24 with Year 12 or equivalent

Year 12 and equivalent certificates are vital pathways to further education and greater participation in the economy. The proportion of Aboriginal people aged 20-24 who have a year 12 or equivalent certificate has increased by 3.0 per cent in the past five years.

Measure 6.1.2 Apparent retention rates for students in Years 10 to 12

Between 2010 and 2021 the retention rates for Aboriginal students grew by 16.7 per cent reaching 59.4 per cent in 2021. While this is an improvement in the long term, since 2015 retention rates for years 10-12 have been slowly declining from a high point of 65.7 per cent of students in 2015. In the same time period, non-Aboriginal student retention rates remained relatively stable with a 3.6 percent decrease in retention rates to 78.6 per cent in 2021. In order to reach parity with non-Aboriginal students, retention rates for Aboriginal students needs to change trajectory and grow by 24 per cent. This is important as the final years of high school provide entry into higher education and many apprenticeships and traineeships.

Measure 6.1.3 Number of Aboriginal students who complete the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or VET (Vocational Education Training) in Schools Certificate

Between 2012 and 2021, there was a 77.4 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal students who completed the VCE, VCAL or VET in Schools Certificate. COVID-19, however, seems to have a significant negative impact on completion rates with a 49 student drop between 2020 and 2021. This suggests an increased need for support in the later years of school post-pandemic.

Victoria is moving to a new integrated senior secondary certificate, which will be fully integrated by 2025. In 2023, this commenced with the introduction of the VCE Vocational Major, which replaces VCAL and includes improvements to VET Delivered to Secondary Students for students across Victoria. From 2025, a fully integrated single senior secondary certificate will be introduced across all Victorian schools and senior secondary providers, offering students genuine and identifiable vocational pathways.

Due to the on-going impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, the VCAA and DET provided additional support to VCAL students. However, anecdotal evidence suggests a higher than usual proportion of the students enrolled in the VCAL Intermediate levels found 2021 challenging and were unable to complete learning outcomes for units. These students can re-enrol in 2022 to complete the number of units required to qualify for their VCAL certificates.

Goal 7: School leavers achieve their potential


Measures under Goal 7 varied in performance

Engagement after compulsory education is key to starting meaningful careers and gaining experience and knowledge. Too often in the recent past Aboriginal young people have been locked out of their potential through structural racism and a failure of government to provide access to further learning, training, and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal school leavers are more likely to be looking for work or engaged in apprenticeships and/or traineeships than in previous years. They are also more likely to be fully engaged in education, training, or employment than not. While VET enrolments are down completions as a proportion of those enrolments are increasing.

Data note

All measures under this goal are reported on.

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 2021, 47.0 per cent 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 58.5 per cent in Victoria.

Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since 2016 (the baseline year).

Target 7: In 2021, 58.0 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 years were fully engaged in employment, education or training across Australia, compared to 65.5 per cent in Victoria.

Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since 2016 (the baseline year).

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 employed six months after leaving school declined from 29.2 per cent in 2019 to 23.1 per cent 2021. Over the same period, the proportion of Year 12 completers undertaking bachelor degrees, apprenticeships and traineeships increased. The proportion of Aboriginal Year 12 completers looking for work or Not in Labour Force, Education, or Training (NILFET) was considerably higher in 2021 than before the COVID-19 pandemic, although there was a slight decrease between 2020 and 2021. More Aboriginal students entering further education is a good sign that investing in education is working for Aboriginal students. More needs to be done for school leavers who are NILFET to support them to achieve their goals.

Measure 7.1.2 Proportion of 17-24-year-old school leavers participating in full-time education and training and/or employment

The majority (54.6 per cent) of Aboriginal Victorians aged 17-24 years old are fully engaged in full-time education and training, and/or employment. When comparing with the non-Aboriginal population, Aboriginal Victorians are less likely to be fully engaged in education or the workforce after they leave school in 2021, with 75.0 per cent of non-Aboriginal Victorians fully engaged. This is a result of numerous barriers that Aboriginal Victorians face when leaving secondary school, including systemic racism and geographic disparity for further education and jobs. A challenging trend is the high proportion of Aboriginal 17–24-year-olds who are not engaged in any full-time education, training or employment, which was at 24.3 per cent for 2021.

Measure 7.1.3 – Proportion of 18 to 24-year olds participating and completing tertiary education

Aboriginal students’ VET enrolments are at their lowest since 2019. Between 2019 and 2021 the number of VET enrolments has decreased 3,201 (7,532 to 4,331). This contrasts with the proportion of enrolments to completions being the highest since 2016 at 20.6 per cent in non-University settings. Enrolments and completions of VET studies as a proportion of 18-24 year- olds are also comparatively low to previous years. VET studies are a significant part of the education mix as they provide alternative pathways to higher skilled work and therefore a greater share of the economy through labour. More needs to be invested in VET and other alternative education pathways to meet the education needs of the widest variety of students.

It is encouraging to see that university access, participation, and attainment rates are either holding steady or increasing throughout 2020-21 and the challenge that COVID-19 presented. More Aboriginal students are choosing to enter tertiary education. This will help to provide greater economic gains and improved life outcomes with university level degrees leading to higher wages and greater economic security.

Measure 7.1.4 Proportion of 20–64-year-olds with qualifications at Certificate III level or above

The proportion of Aboriginal Victorians with qualifications at Certificate II level or above has risen dramatically since the last Census. 52.6 per cent of respondents said that they have those qualifications; a 20 per cent increase.

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

In 2021 the majority of Aboriginal 20-64 year old VET graduates are in employment and/or further study at 80.1 per cent. When analysing this trend over time we see that there has been a steady decrease in the proportion of Aboriginal VET graduates employed and/or in further study. The largest declines in post VET outcomes are around further study after training for both VET and Government-funded VET graduates with a 9 per cent and 20 per cent reduction from 2020 to 2021 respectively. Gains in participation in study and employment in the latter half of the 2010’s has been reduced through 2020 and 2021. This may be due to insecurity around the COVID-19 pandemic and education. It will be important to analyse VET graduate pathways as we transition out of COVID-19 lockdown.

Measure 7.1.6 Proportion of graduates and cadets employed in VPS; retention, progression and satisfaction

The Victorian Public Service (VPS) continues to provide a key employment pathway for Aboriginal Victorians. However, the intake numbers for internship, graduate and trainee programs dropped between 2021 and 2022. The patterns of participation and choices of community members are being influenced by broader trends in the Victorian labour market (see analysis under Goal 9 of Domain 3). There is an increasingly competitive market for Aboriginal employees across the private sector, public sector and community-controlled sector. In response to this, VPSC is looking at offering alternative pathways for members of the community without formal qualifications as well as strengthening the promotion and engagement associated with graduate and other career pathway programs into the VPS.

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.


DE partnership with VAEAI

DE and the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) have worked in formal partnership for over 30 years. This partnership also includes statutory authorities such as the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. The partnership continues through the shared development and delivery of Marrung, and operates at statewide, regional and local levels. DE funds VAEAI to support the provision of education and training that reinforces the Koorie community’s cultural identity and increases awareness in the wider community of Koorie culture and aspirations in education and training.

Preparing the education system for self-determination

$5.8 million new investment was provided in the 2022-23 Victorian State Budget to improve the preparedness of the education system for the forthcoming self-determination in education reform. This funding builds upon the state-wide consultation and co-design process funded through the 2021-22 State budget.

Throughout 2022, a series of Campfire Conversations were held throughout Victoria, bringing together Aboriginal communities and schools to listen, share and connect about the possibilities and opportunities for strengthening self-determination in education.

More than 2,800 people participated in over 160 Campfire Conversations. These created a safe space for conversation that respected the stories of pain and trauma that arose. They provided a forum for schools to hear first-hand the human impact of issues such as racism, trauma and cultural load, how these exist in their schools, and the negative impact they have on enacting self-determination.

Koorie young people, their families and the wider community emphasised the importance of keeping children and young people at the centre of the reforms and strengthening their core connections of family, community, culture, identity and their sense of belonging. Overwhelmingly, discussions and suggestions for change align to one or more of the following priority areas: culturally safe and responsive school system, accountability, partnerships, truth-telling, voice and capacity building.

2022-23 initiatives include strengthening of professional capability of principals and school leadership in Koorie education; capacity building in schools and students to prevent and respond to racism and to proactively increase the inclusivity of learning environments; and exploring options to expand the teaching of Victorian Aboriginal language programs in schools.

Other initiatives funded in 2022-23 that contributed to improved educational outcomes and experiences for Aboriginal Victorians included:

  • ‘Building equity and excellence for rural and regional students’, which included support to establish partnerships between clusters of rural and regional schools and local Aboriginal communities to strengthen the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and perspectives.
  • ‘Lifting student literacy and numeracy outcomes’ which assisted the Koorie English professional development program to continue to support Koorie students’ literacy and numeracy.
Dhelk Wukang: Aboriginal Inclusion Plan 2022-26

In September 2022, DE launched Dhelk Wukang 2022-26, the department’s fourth Aboriginal Inclusion plan. The plan sets out a public commitment to strengthen Koorie inclusion, self-determination and cultural safety at all levels within the department, including for the Victorian Public Service and the Government Teaching Service.

The Plan promotes Koorie voice across the department, seeks to improve Koorie representation, and prioritises career development and retention of Koorie staff. Two existing initiatives are gaining deeper traction under Dhelk Wukang and contributing strongly to the cultural safety of department workplaces:

The Koorie Staff Network (KSN) continues to connect and support Koorie employees across DE, contributing to creating a culturally safe work environment. The KSN has grown to around 200 in 2022.

The Yan Ngitj ambassadors program continues with 55 Koorie and non-Koorie staff across DE volunteering to support culturally safe and inclusive workplaces. This includes promoting responsibility for Koorie cultural safety and respect for Koorie history, culture and perspectives within their work area through regular communications and activities.

Marrung: Teaching Aboriginal Languages (Aboriginal Languages Training Initiative)

$2.8 million over four years has been provided for the Aboriginal Languages Training Initiative. This will support the delivery of a Certificate IV in Teaching an Australian First Nations Language to increase the number of Aboriginal language teachers in Victorian kindergartens, schools and adult education settings.

This Certificate provides further learning for participants from the two previously funded nationally accredited courses, Certificates II and III in Learning an Australian First Nations Language. It allows graduates to apply for Permission to Teach through the Victorian Institute of Teaching.

Other education reforms and initiatives

A number of important system-wide reforms and initiatives are underway and are designed to provide support for all students, including strengthened supports for Aboriginal learners.

Under the Senior Secondary Pathways Reform, the new VCE Vocational Major will enable students to successfully transition into apprenticeships or traineeships, further education, employment, or university via a non-ATAR pathway. The new Victorian Pathways Certificate (VPC) will include a flexible learning approach to support students who have additional needs or have missed periods of school.

The Victorian Curriculum F–10 embeds Aboriginal perspectives across all learning areas. The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority process to adopt and adapt the revised Australian Curriculum into the next generation of the Victorian Curriculum F–10 is expected to conclude in July 2023.

The Disability Inclusion Reform will provide a strengths-based profiling process to help students and families identify the strengths, needs and educational adjustments schools can make to assist students with disability. The profile will be completed with the support of key people who understand the student’s education and support needs, and an independent facilitator role helps schools and families work together. The reform also introduces a tiered funding model with additional investment to provide schools with more resourcing to support inclusive practices.

The Schools Mental Health Fund invests around $200m into the Victorian Government school system over four years and $86m ongoing. Schools use this new funding to purchase evidence-based programs, staffing and resources from the Menu to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of their students, including from ACCOs.

The Tutor Learning Initiative was introduced in 2021 to support students whose learning had been disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides government and low-fee non-government schools with funding to employ tutors to deliver targeted small group learning support to students who need it most.

The Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Support initiative provides funding to government secondary schools to improve outcomes for students who are at risk of leaving school without the literacy or numeracy skills they need for future work, education, and training.

LOOKOUT Education Support Centres are designed to boost the capability of early childhood services, schools, carers, child protection practitioners and out-of-home care services to improve educational outcomes for children and young people living in out-of-home care.

Training Skills and Higher Education

Vocational Education and Training workforce

Victoria’s Koorie Vocational Education and Training (VET) workforce has been redesigned to better support Koorie learners. 17 Koorie Liaison Officers, 32 Koorie Student Support Officers, eight Wurreker Brokers and one Wurreker Manager are now all embedded within Victoria’s TAFE Network and remain crucial to supporting cultural inclusivity, advancing self-determination, providing advice, and opportunities for Koorie learners to succeed.

Supporting Koorie Self-Determination in Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE)

VAEAI has been contracted to deliver the Supporting Koorie Self-Determination in Pre-accredited Training and ACFE Programs Project.

The project’s objectives are to increase the capacity of providers to better meet the needs of Koorie learners and improve learner participation and outcomes.

VAEAI have led stakeholder consultation workshops across Victoria through the Wurreker Brokers and the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups.

VAEAI presented a Discussion Paper to the ACFE Board in December 2022 which outlined their findings to date and recommendations for draft self-determination principles and protocols.


Marram Nganyin – Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program

The Marram Nganyin – Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program was first established in 2016-17 to provide a tailored and responsive program to Aboriginal young people and their communities.

In 2021-22, five Aboriginal organisations delivered mentoring activities that support Aboriginal young people and their local communities, with the Koorie Youth Council funded to provide capacity building and coordination support. Over 90 young Aboriginal young people engaged with Marram Nganyin during 2022, exceeding total targets.

The 2021-22 State Budget committed more than $1.4 million to continue the Marram Nganyin Program for two years until June 2023.

The Victorian Government’s Youth Strategy – Our Promise, Your Future – released in 2022, is helping to ensure every young person across Victoria maintains and strengthens their connections to community and culture including supporting work towards Aboriginal self-determination.


Aboriginal Scholarships Program

In 2022, the Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Scholarships Program continued with pooled funding of $150,000 per annum for three years. Scholarship awards are tiered and range between $1,000 to $15,000 per annum, with the programs aim to provide financial and career support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary, TAFE and university students while creating a talent pipeline to the Victorian transport portfolio.

Throughout 2022 scholarships were awarded to 33 secondary, 1 TAFE and 1 university students.

Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Careers in Transport Strategy

Development of the Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Careers in Transport Strategy focused on attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing Aboriginal employees across the transport portfolio in support of achieving the portfolios two per cent internal Aboriginal employment target, increasing Aboriginal representation on boards and in senior positions. The Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Careers in Transport Strategy is anticipated to be launched early 2023.