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A good move for kids in remote communities

Marion Scrymgour, who also holds the Education portfolio, yesterday warned parents that failing to send their children to school was illegal and that she would enforce penalties for those who failed to do so.

Ms Scrymgour, one of the most senior Aboriginal politicians in the country, will establish, “subject to negotiations”, two community partnership education boards, to be located in the Walpiri triangle in central Australia and selected communities in East Arnhem Land.

Ms Scrymgour’s plan to tackle what she admits is a crisis in remote education was delivered to Northern Territory parliament this week, with parental responsibility at the core of the Government’s attempts to improve the shocking literacy and numeracy outcomes among Aboriginal children in the Territory.

The community education partnership boards would place “core responsibility” for education on the shoulders of parents, encouraging “community ownership and management” of education and training services.

The boards would also be aimed at ensuring that all four-year-olds had access to 15 hours’ preschooling each week, and would increase enrolment and attendance, and literacy and numeracy competency, Ms Scrymgour said.

Natasha Robinson

One of the things that I have been saying   for a very long time is that  the very poor attendance record of children in many indigenous communities is a sad example of a kind of reverse discrimination  that has seen indigenous parents immune from any legal sanction for failing to ensure that their children attended school. I am happy to offer a tick of approval to Ms Scrymgour for her efforts to reverse that trend in the territory  but I am amazed that the Council of Government School Organisations Michael Duffy should make this claim:

“Harping on attendance is to talk about a symptom,” council vice-president Michael Duffy told The Australian. “It’s not the cause of the crisis. The cause of the crisis is that remote education delivery has failed.”

What kind of idiot would suggest that children failing to attend school is “just a symptom” with out actually being in classes(even poorly resourced ones ) any meaningful education is actually impossible . It may not be the ONLY cause of the crisis but it has to be up there in the top three, along with the  emphasis on teaching in languages other than English and offering a second rate syllabus.

Cheers Comrades



  1. craigy says:

    “What kind of idiot would suggest that children failing to attend school is “just a symptom” with out actually being in classes(even poorly resourced ones ) any meaningful education is actually impossible”

    I think you miss the point Iain. If your parents are dysfunctional then a symptom of that is that the kids don’t get to school. The dysfunction is due to long term disadvantage due to, amongst other things, dispossession and the racist attitudes of previous generations (now apologised for, but still a work in progress).

  2. Iain says:

    Really Craigy that has been trotted out as an excuse for the very poor attendance of indigenous children for as long as I can remember but it ignores the fact that no indigenous parent ever had to worry the compulsion too sent children to school being enforced and that lack of enforcement was as much the problem as any substance abuse or “racism” 🙄 and why was it never enforced? political correctness has to be up there in prime position.

  3. Craigy says:

    I don’t think any well meaning person would disagree with you that children need to go to school Iain.

    Your problem is you want to believe that some mythical leftist conspiracy somehow stops kids from attending school without any evidence other than the rantings at AWH.

    Clearly the problem lies with dysfunctional families who aren’t capable of getting their kids to school, or don’t see a need due to little or no education themselves. The same problems occur in any society/family that has become dysfunctional.

    If the authorities aren’t able to help these families it isn’t due to political correctness but most clearly a lack of resources on the ground.

    While I disagree with the arrogant way the interventions were carried out under Howard, I do think this is a step in the right direction, that is, by providing the greater resources needed to help these disadvantaged families to recover from the years of neglect, abuse and racism. Eventually this could help cure the disease that has created the symptom you quote in your post.

  4. As Noel Pearson himself has pointed out, the dysfunction suffered in many Aboriginal communities is due to the breakdown of social norms in these communities. This is why the policy of self-determination has failed so badly – the assumption has been that if you leave these communities alone, they will work out the problems themselves. Sadly, the breakdown of social norms and order, as well as a lack of policing have ensured that alcoholism and crime are rampant, whilst unemployments rates are high.

    The simple truth is that the only way to make dysfunction communities more functional is to make welfare payments conditional on the performance of certain activities. Whilst government policy may have indirectly contributed to the situation today, the best way to overcome disadvantage is to strongly encourage people to make the right decisions. Disadvantage has caused many Indigenous peoples to make the wrong decisions, which is why government policy has to be particularly influential on behaviour in order to overcome this.

  5. Craigy says:

    Fair comment Leon, thanks. You learning something here Iain?

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