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The post-school transitions of Indigenous learners

Through its involvement in surveys, reviews and analysis at the state and national level, ACER has gained insights into the pathways available to, and taken by, young Indigenous Australians after they leave school.

From 2008 to 2012, ACER conducted the annual On Track survey of Victorian school leavers, reporting on the post-school destinations of all school leavers one year on. In addition to the annual survey there was a longitudinal component, the most recent of which tracked students who left school in 2007, surveying them in 2008 until 2011. Twenty-four Indigenous Year 12 or equivalent completers and 36 Indigenous early school leavers were tracked across all four years of the study, all of whom were engaged in work or study in 2011. Of the school completers, 14 were undertaking some form of education and training, including six who were at university; 10 were in the labour force. Of the early school leavers, 14 were undertaking some form of education and training, including seven who were in an apprenticeship; 22 were in the labour force.

The On Track longitudinal study notes that, despite national and Victorian trends indicating improvements in the past decade, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students historically have not attained Year 12 at the same levels as their non-Indigenous peers. Related to this, the Productivity Commission’s 2011 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage – Key Indicators report shows that Aboriginal people are over-represented in the Victorian VET sector relative to the size of the Victorian Aboriginal population. Conversely, ACER analysis of the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census shows that, while national growth in the number of Indigenous university student enrolments between 2006 and 2011 was significantly larger than the overall growth during this period, Indigenous students are still considerably under-represented in Australian higher education relative to the size of Australia’s Indigenous population.

The National Report on Social Equity in VET 2013, prepared by ACER for the National VET Equity Advisory Council, reported that 22 per cent of Indigenous Australians between the ages of 15 and 64 were participating in VET study in 2011, which is more than twice the rate for all other Australians. But while overall participation was higher, many of the courses studied were at Certificate II or below.

Analysis of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth conducted by ACER in 2005 showed that, by the age of 22, Indigenous young people were engaged in full-time work to a similar extent as their non-Indigenous peers but were less likely to be in full-time study or part-time work. Overall, the proportion of young Indigenous people who were not working was higher than for non-Indigenous young people from the same cohorts.

Findings such as these highlight the need to focus attention on improving the success of post-school transitions for Indigenous students. A report produced by ACER in 2009 for the Department of Planning and Community Development identified the key success factors associated with programs that have improved transition outcomes for young Indigenous people.

The report found that implementation of a successful transitions program would require a coordinated effort using a whole-of-government approach characterised by cross-agency collaboration and close contact with the local community. It would also need monitoring and reporting against target outcomes, in order to help bring about continuous improvement and enable an evidence base to be built to help future policy and program development.■

Find out more:
Further information about ACER’s work to support successful post-school transitions for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can be found in Making a Difference: Improving outcomes for Indigenous Learners, available at < http://research.acer.edu.au/indigenous_education/29 >

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