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Literacy learning for Indigenous students: setting a research agenda.


Literacy for Aboriginal learners has been a significant part of the education agenda in Australia, particularly since the implementation of the first mandatory Aboriginal Education Policy in Australia by the New South Wales Government in 1982. Despite considerable expenditure and research programs, there have been minimal improvements in literacy learning outcomes for Aboriginal learners (Masters & Forster 1997, Freebody et al 1995). We recognise that Australia's Indigenous communities comprise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, the focus for our research has been centred on Aboriginal students and communities in outer regional locations.

The key focus for our research has been to explore the role of cultural subtleties in communication including aspects of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures, and the mismatches in meaning that frequently occur in cultural contact or intercultural situations. These intercultural interactions impact on Aboriginal learners in ways that inhibit their access to equitable education outcomes. This is one of the key motivations behind our partnership of one Aboriginal and one non-Aboriginal researcher working together in the area of Standard Australian English (SAE) literacy for young Aboriginal learners. The partnership enables our mutual interests in Aboriginal Education and Literacy, and our strong beliefs that data analysis can be strengthened when both cultural perspectives are embedded in the interpretation of data, to be put into practice.

The first part of our paper presents a brief overview of our research, national research projects and Aboriginal Education policy and statements. This overview will put the type of research and its aims and applications in context, providing a background for the subsequent sections of our discussion.

Researching Aboriginal education

As mentioned earlier our research has been located in outer regional areas and schools where, typically, Aboriginal students comprise a minority classroom group. Our research projects include:

Simpson & Clancy Research projects

Nanima research project. Nanima is Wiradjuri language meaning `something that is lost'. Wiradjuri people are Aboriginal Australians who have lived and live in areas of southern and western New South Wales. This project investigated the context of the pedagogical literacy relationships conducive to successful literacy acquisition by young Aboriginal learners. The focus was on the coping strategies and behaviours of Aboriginal learners in classroom situations (Simpson 1998).

Baiyai (Wiradjuri language meaning `meeting place of two parties') researchers observed Aboriginal students in classroom contexts, focusing on interactions that might otherwise pass unnoticed in busy classrooms. These were analysed and interpreted in a way that enabled the research group to construct a picture of classroom exchanges that were causing difficulties for Aboriginal students and their teacher (Munns, Simpson & Clancy 1999, Munns, Simpson, Connelly, & Townsend 1999).

Narang Guudha (Wiradjuri language meaning `little child') research explores why young Aboriginal learners, in urban/rural town settings (now referred to as inner and outer regional settings) are the ones who are at greatest risk of not achieving adequate literacy skills. This is despite their enthusiasm and readiness to begin formal education similar to any other group of children (Simpson & Clancy 2001a, 2001b). Part of the Narang Guudha project considers the six elements of The National Indigenous English Literacy & Numeracy Strategy 2000-2004 (Commonwealth of Australia, 1999).

Clearly, our research is embedded in the broader Australian context and as such is informed by a range of national research projects (government initiated and funded) and Aboriginal Education Policies in the area of literacy learning for Indigenous students. Indeed it is the synthesis of local, national and theoretical perspectives that has resulted in raising our consciousness about a range of issues (Straw & Cook 1990), and has provided a basis for further research projects.

Aboriginal Education Policies

Federal and State Governments have invested considerable capital into developing reports and policies on literacy and Aboriginal education. We first present an overview of the Government Reports (see Table 1) and second a brief description of major national research reports on Aboriginal Education. The policies and reports selected for discussion provide a valuable resource for understanding the changing and developing nature of Indigenous education.

National Indigenous Research Reports

A series of Reports have likewise been prepared to inform the development of policies and strategies in the area of Aboriginal Education. The list provided below is a summary of some of the major reports commissioned since 1988.

Report of the Aboriginal Education Policy Task Force (1988)

The Task Force report is the first stage in the development of a national policy on Aboriginal education. It drew on a number of existing documents to formulate its recommendations: policy papers from the NAEC (National Aboriginal Education Council), two reports by the House of Representatives Standing committee on Aboriginal Education and other reports from government agencies. The report identifies the need for a national Aboriginal Education policy and makes a number of recommendations relating to primary and secondary education and access, curriculum and teaching strategies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education in the Early Years. Project Paper No. 4 Compulsory Years of Schooling Project (1992)

This paper provides advice on necessary action in the critical early years of school which impact on the future academic and life outcomes of Indigenous students. The recommendations suggest ways in which the cycle of poor health, poor welfare, poor psychological development and low educational outcomes can be addressed.

Community Literacy Practices and Schooling: Towards Effective Support for Students (1997)

This project explored differences in the language and literacy practices of schools, families and community groups. In particular, it examined matches and mismatches between the discourse practices of home and school and the impact that any differences have on students' school success.

Mapping Literacy Achievement--Results of the 1996 National School English Literacy Survey (1997)

The report presents the outcomes of a comprehensive survey of the literacy achievements of Year 3 and Year 5 students in Australian schools, including a Special Indigenous Sample of 800 students. The performance of the Special Indigenous Sample was at a lower level than the Main Sample in the three strands of the national English profile framework that were assessed in the survey.

Enhancing English Literacy Skills in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students--A Review of the Literature and Case Studies in Primary Schools (1998)

This report draws together theory and practical experience to provide a comprehensive picture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary school education. It provides a review of the literature relating to contexts of learning, government policies and reports and English literacy development. In addition a series of diverse case studies in which teachers describe strategies that have improved the performance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening are included.

Katu Kalpu: Report on the Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Education and Training Programs for Indigenous Australians (March 2000)

Provides an overview of a Senate Committee inquiry into the effectiveness of education and training programs for Indigenous Australians over the past ten years. The Committee received 43 submissions from all states and territories and visited schools and other educational institutions, and held formal hearings and less formal discussions with a range of people connected with Indigenous education.

OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy Australian Background Report (2000)

Twelve countries around the world have participated in this review, which is designed to provide decision makers with information and analysis to aid in developing policy in the area of early childhood education and care. There is a strong focus on the Australian context, the area of early childhood, as well as policy concerns and approaches.

National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education--Emerging Themes (2000),Education Access (2000), Recommendations (2000)

This inquiry was initiated by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) in February 1999. This followed the Commission's 1998 Bush Talks consultations, in which it was revealed that access to education of an appropriate standard and quality was a significant concern in rural and remote areas. The report considered the availability and accessibility of both primary and secondary schooling, and the quality of educational services, including technology support services and whether the education available to children with disabilities, Indigenous children and children from diverse cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds complies with their human rights.

What Works? Explorations in Improving Outcomes for Indigenous Students (2000)

This report is a significant achievement in Australian education. It summarises what has been learnt from one of the largest Indigenous educational exercises ever undertaken across Australia, and is without precedent in terms of scope and scale. The IESIP (Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Program) Strategic Results Project valued and challenged the professional capabilities of educators. It also valued diversity, while being highly ambitious in wanting to show accelerated learning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. A revised and much shortened version What Has Worked (and will again) (2000) has been prepared specifically as food for thought for, and consequent action by, teachers and trainers to improve education and training outcomes for Indigenous students.

Achieving Educational Equality for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples--Discussion Paper (2000)

This document contains a statement of principles and standards for educational infrastructure and service delivery, a model for more culturally inclusive and educationally effective schools, and a framework for developing more efficient and effective cross-portfolio mechanisms.

Australian Literacies Informing National Policy on Literacy Education (2001)

This report considers the place of literacy in the wider Australian context, identifies areas that should be included in a National Policy on literacy and includes literacy learners from diverse backgrounds, and how literacy is taught in schools from early years through to post-schooling. It also provides examples of state-based Australian programs.

The government reports and policies introduced above are extensive and generally provide `big picture' information rather than smaller detail. However, they all highlight the fact that Aboriginal children are having difficulties in education and often struggle to develop literacy levels that are equal to those of the rest of the Australian population (Department of Employment Education and Training 1995, Masters & Forster 1997). Although recommendations are often made based on local input, the information given is of a general nature with few specifics or details on how to develop the cultural understandings required to implement them in an appropriate way that is meaningful and helpful to Aboriginal learners.

Contexts of Aboriginal education in Australia

In addition to the macro contexts considered by national research projects and reports and represented in education policies, it is crucial to understand the local contexts of Aboriginal children--place, population, density--and the diverse, and yet shared, nature of their experiences in those contexts. This section of our paper explores some of these issues in order to inform the subsequent section. In that section we present a number of case studies and scenarios, drawn from our research to highlight ways of responding to, and reconsidering, classroom practice and interaction.

Population statistics and categories

According to the 1996 National Census data (ABS 1996) the majority of Australia's Indigenous populations reside in NSW and Queensland, with the largest concentrations in major cities and inner and outer regional areas. However, in more remote areas (e.g. Northern Territory, north-western Western Australia and Cape York Peninsula), the Indigenous population comprises 40% of the total population; in more densely populated urban centres Indigenous representation decreases to less than 2%. This means that in remote areas of Australia the Indigenous population is more visible, and consequently these areas have tended to attract more of the education research and funding.


According to the 1996 census (ABS 1996) 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in towns and cities of more than 100,000 people and approximately 32% lived in regional areas. The majority of Indigenous Australians lived in centres with populations greater than 1,000 and 41% lived in centres with populations between 1,000 and 100,000 people. The exception is the Northern Territory: 65% of Indigenous Australians lived in regional areas; 26% in localities with a total population of between 200 and 999; and 39% in communities of less than 200 people (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000).

Interestingly, much of the research in the area of Indigenous education has focused on areas outside the main population areas with a focus on the remote and very remote areas. Batten et al (1998) echo this finding with their comment that `more is written in the literature about the schooling of Aboriginal children in remote situations than in urban settings, but most Indigenous people do live in an urban environment' (p. 3). Similarly, Dunn suggests that `while literacy research in minority communities is common in other countries, research concerning urban/rural town Aboriginal people in Australia is sparse' (1999, p. 103). Thus we would support a far greater research and policy focus on research sites that reflect the settings and realities for the Indigenous population, ie towns and outer regional areas.

Currently a range of labels is used to describe geographical settings such as rural, bush, remote, regional, urban. Unfortunately a lack of consistency in the use of these labels complicates our identification and reference to the contexts of Indigenous populations. The differences and anomalies that arise in the terminology used by the wider community, researchers, and government agencies and departments make it difficult to formulate a research focus that is clearly understood by all stakeholders and interested persons. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recognised these difficulties and is in the process of articulating a clear set of guidelines to define the different geographical locations within Australia, particularly those that refer to the inner and outer regional dichotomy. Necessarily the conventions and consistency of such a framework can only benefit planning, policy and research in the area of Aboriginal Education.

Diversity and complexity of Indigenous communities

Indigenous people not only live across very different geographical settings as outlined above, but also experience a range of different lifestyles within those communities. The literature, however, relies heavily on the umbrella term `Aboriginal' when documenting information about these communities, and fails to recognise these differences within the Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal people are living a range of lifestyles, including Traditional, Transitional, and Contemporary, in communities such as inner city, outer city, resettlement, isolated, home, homeland, remote and island. Each of these has its history, context and particular needs. These kinds of differences certainly provide some explanation as to why the generic projected outcomes and recommendations from policies and programs, outlined in the earlier section, are not necessarily appropriate for all Indigenous communities, and why some have worked well in some communities and failed in others. Extending awareness and understanding of the complex, and often delicate, nature of the social and cultural issues at play within and between these communities, is critical if Aboriginal learners are to achieve equitable educational outcomes. It is this kind of detail that can add richness and depth to research projects, which can in turn provide for a more targeted approach to policy making and funding.

Information about the diversity between and within Aboriginal communities, aimed at providing a clear understanding of the labels used, and the cultural and social complexities embedded within them, is not easily accessible or evident to outsiders. Little has been written about them, and the only way of really accessing this information is through being an `insider', or talking and consulting with an `insider'.

Research contexts: cooperation and partnership

Our research partnership is an example of a situation where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal colleagues have equal status and responsibility in the project, and through collaboration are able to provide insights that in the past have not always been active or evident. The dynamic nature of such a partnership enables cultural `insiders' and `outsiders' (Brayboy & Deyhle 2000) to interpret data using a `perspectives' approach.

If the research in Aboriginal Education is to be effective it requires this kind of partnership approach, where power is distributed equitably, and where research is conducted with Aboriginal researchers and communities--not to and about them. In this way there can be `research insiders' who will add the cultural dimensions and understandings that non-Aboriginal researchers often miss. Qualitative methodologies, such as a social interactionist approach as suggested by Woods (1983), enable a close focus on cultural nuances (see below). Such an approach `... concentrates on the small-scale debate of interpersonal relationships, what people do, and how they react to each other, the patterning of behaviours, the ebb and flow of everyday life ... [taking] nothing for granted about the importance of events, for that is decided by the people under study; this is their world' (Woods, 1983, p. xi). Findings from such research can be effectively reported through stories which help to make the information more accessible and easily understood by all stakeholders, including Indigenous participants and communities, educators, and the general public. Woods suggests that in this way mutual understandings can be developed, and programs that provide benefits for all learners can be implemented more efficiently and effectively. Some of the most interesting responses to the work in Nanima, Baiyai and Narang Guudah, have been those from people within the Aboriginal community. They comment that the researchers have articulated what is really happening, which is something they have not previously been able to put into words in order to inform educators about their children's difficulties in `being successful' at school.

The kind of research suggested here requires time to build up trust within the Aboriginal community to observe and to talk openly and freely. Researching in cross-cultural settings can be problematic; an outsider's past experiences will not have equipped them to make sense of events in the same way that an insider's would. Furthermore, as Teagarden et al indicated, `[n]o one researcher can be an insider in multiple cultures' (1995, p. 1283). The use of insider and outsider partnerships or teams (Easterby-Smith & Malina 1999) has therefore been suggested in several reports (Bartunek & Louis 1996, Boyacigiller & Adler 1991, Morey & Luthans 1985). These partnerships need to be founded on mutual trust and respect, with an equal distribution of power and responsibility. It can take many years to build up such a relationship, so it makes good sense when researchers are also community `insiders' having access to the cultural mores of the participants.

As mentioned above, our research partnership contains both an `insider' and `outsider' (Bartunek and Louis, 1996). One member of the research team is an educator and researcher as well as a cultural `insider' within the Aboriginal community. She has knowledge of the community structure, and is able to use and interpret the language, which minimises the difficulties of access and rapport, helping to reduce the gap between the Aboriginal community and educators and researchers. On the other hand, the `outsider' researcher provides expertise from literacy, education and research perspectives, complementing the `insider' researcher. She is able to maintain a critical and analytical approach with her `outsider critical eye' and questioning practices. This allows the researchers to bring another perspective to the research that one perspective alone would not necessarily guarantee (Pugh & Brooks 2000).

The goal of this partnership is to endeavour to bring together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, an Aboriginal researcher, non-Aboriginal researcher and school education as indicated in Figure 2, to assist in linking these aspects in a way that can provide input into filling the missing piece.


Case studies and scenarios relating to research and classroom practice

The final section of our paper identifies a number of key language and literacy issues of relevance to developing a research agenda for Aboriginal Education and classroom practice. The key issues include Aboriginal English, early Aboriginal Literacy and cultural subtleties. The discussion presented below draws upon our research collaboration.

Understanding the culture of Aboriginal children

Negotiating a pathway

For Aboriginal children, who are in the process of moving from their home culture into the school culture for the first time, we prefer not to use the term `transition', which can imply a one way journey towards something better. We use it in tandem with the term `fire stick' period to highlight the way in which Aboriginal culture is not something to be left behind during the process of moving from the home culture to the school culture, but an integral part of it. (`Fire stick' in traditional Aboriginal culture is a stick that is kept alight to ensure the availability of fire when needed.) Although the move to school is a challenge for all young children, this `fire stick' period is particularly difficult for young Aboriginal learners, who need to adjust to an extra range and layer of different experiences, demands and expectations relating to their cultural, language and social skills. If Aboriginal children are to succeed in the school context they need to know that it is safe and acceptable to move backwards and forwards between the cultures of home and school. Additionally educators need to be informed about ways in which they can support Aboriginal children in valuing their own culture while they are also developing a `sociocultural identity kit' for their new setting. Such a `kit' `is acquired through scaffolding and social interaction with people who have already mastered this way of being and learning with the social and cultural community' (Hill 1997, p. 271), and it will enable Aboriginal children to be full participants in their new social network. Such terminology can be applicable to children from many cultural groups where the `fire stick' period equates with the time needed for them to learn how to navigate between their home and school cultures (Simpson & Clancy 2001b).


In collaboration with her Aboriginal community, the Aboriginal researcher describes shame as a unique cultural response experienced by many Aboriginal people. It is best described in Western culture as acute embarrassment. It is particularly apparent when Aboriginal people are publicly made the centre of attention, in either positive or negative situations. Giving an incorrect or inappropriate answer can cause many Aboriginal children to feel `shame'. It can also occur when they are unable to interpret jargon/language used by non-Indigenous people (see Groome 1995, p. 72). Aboriginal children often learn how to avoid being `shamed'. This is achieved by not answering, not offering their work to be marked, waiting for others to begin and then following or, in some cases, by reacting in ways that are not expected by the teacher.

An example of how classroom misinterpretations and misunderstandings can have a profound impact upon Aboriginal learners occurred when Jenny, a young Aboriginal girl, had completed her work and showed it to her teacher who was very pleased with Jenny's efforts. The teacher wanted to praise Jenny and also wanted to model `good' work to the rest of the class. As a result the teacher gained the attention of the whole class and told Jenny to hold her work up to show to the class. Jenny stood still, her work held down at her side. After encouraging Jenny to show her work the teacher finally took the work out of Jenny's hand, held it up, and made positive comments to the class. Jenny was `shamed': she stood hanging her head and when her work was given back to her she sheepishly returned to her seat.

In this incident the teacher intended to praise Jenny and was puzzled at Jenny's reactions. However, Jenny's interpretation of events was that she was being `shamed' and she would try to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Aboriginal English

Over the generations, Aboriginal speakers have used a combination of Aboriginal English (AE) and Standard Australian English (SAE) with an Aboriginal accent. It has been noted above, that throughout Australia Aboriginal people live a range of lifestyles; they also speak a wide range of languages, and within this diversity the Aboriginal English they speak ranges from heavy to light.

Many Aboriginal languages do not have f, v or th sounds, so speakers of the heavier varieties of AE often substitute these sounds in English words for other consonants. The most common substitutions are these:

In Aboriginal English you might hear the following:

AE: Dat pulla der im run real past and get d ting off dat dorg ober der.

SAE: `That fellow (fulla) there he ran real fast and got the thing off that dog over there.'

Teachers may find it difficult to understand what Aboriginal children are saying and may interpret Aboriginal English as a language deficit or speech impediment, requiring intervention and/or remediation. Because many varieties of AE have no `h' at the beginning of a word an Aboriginal child might say `im ungry' or `enry's at' which in SAE would be articulated as `he's hungry' and `Henry's hat'. This strong focus on the sound `h' can lead to over correction by the child, sometimes resulting in an inappropriate placement of the sound. An example occurred when Ken was looking through a book and talking about the pictures, `Look! 'im 'ungry. Now 'e found the happle!'

Curriculum content

Often the selection of content of classroom activities is based on assumptions about prior knowledge that children bring to school with them. For example, traditional English nursery rhymes regularly play an important role in the kindergarten classroom. In the following incident, taken from the Narang Guudha research, Alice's teacher comments on Alice's knowledge of nursery rhymes:
 Alice's English is beautiful, she speaks very clearly, she seems quite
 intelligent at the moment and I think that's because she had done wonderful
 things at home--she knows her nursery rhymes.

At the same time this teacher is also aware that there are Aboriginal rhymes: `Alice ... also knows the Aboriginal ones as well and the meaning of the words.' This indicates that Alice is beginning to navigate a pathway for herself between the two cultures and her teacher appreciates the value of this navigation; unfortunately, this is not always the case. Such navigation was proving to be considerably more difficult for Dean, who identified strongly as being Aboriginal. When working with the rhyme Humpty Dumpty, which was being used as a focus on the letter `h', he was having all sorts of problems. He had no concept that Humpty Dumpty was an egg, nor could he make the `h' sound. In other words, the whole activity had very little meaning for him, other than his knowledge that he needed to colour in a picture and keep his work neat.

Cultural responsibilities, assumptions, expectations and subtleties


One of the areas that creates particular difficulties for young children is that of different cultural practices relating to food. For example, Dean had shared all his food at morning tea time. At lunchtime, because he had nothing left, he simply walked around and helped himself to food from the other children's lunches. This upset the other children, who began to accuse him of `stealing' their food. Dean could not understand why he was in trouble.

For Aboriginal children, all food is for sharing. If they have food, others are welcome to have some, or if someone else has food, Aboriginal children expect to be able to help themselves. Cultural practices such as these do conflict seriously with the conventional practices related to food in the mainstream culture, and can cause conflicts with school and other authorities. This, especially when linked to other misunderstandings, can create tensions for the child and the educator and can result in a build up of resentment.


Issues relating to time can also prove to be problematic for young Aboriginal learners. For example, when Dean's class were working in groups, his group were using the computers. Initially, Dean struggled to get his program working and when it finally worked he was delighted with himself. Just at that moment the teacher asked the children to move onto the next group activity. Dean ignored the request, continuing with the computer task. The teacher continued to make the request, eventually becoming insistent. Dean was upset, demonstrated his discontent by deliberately knocking over a pile of books and refused to take part in any further activities.

Concepts relating to time can often confuse Aboriginal children. In many Aboriginal home contexts, when they are asked to finish an activity, it is expected that they will finish the task, but not that they will stop immediately, which is often the expectation within classrooms. Dean was only a short way through his computer task and expected he would be able to complete it. He couldn't understand why he had to stop when he hadn't actually finished the task, and accordingly he became frustrated and angry. The teacher was not aware of this construction of time and became impatient with Dean when he would not do as he was asked.

In the examples above, we have seen some of the difficulties faced by Aboriginal learners when their teachers do not have an awareness of Aboriginal language and culture. On the other hand, we saw that when Alice's teacher was able to value learning in both cultures Alice was assisted in navigating a pathway for herself between the cultures. We believe that classroom teachers can support and scaffold Aboriginal learners when they:

* have access to `insider' cultural information

* recognise that the language difficulties Aboriginal children experience often relate to cultural misunderstanding on the part of both the educator and the child rather than to limitations in the child's academic ability.

Teachers can't do this alone. If Aboriginal children are to have equal access to education there needs to be systemic support for trainee teachers in pre-service education courses, and professional development for practising teachers. Both pre-service and professional development courses need to provide teachers with an understanding of Aboriginal culture and language. Such courses should also aim to raise teachers' awareness of the fact that Aboriginal parents do care about their children's education, and that their seeming reluctance to participate in school initiatives is more about their prior marginalisation within education systems than about disinterest in their children's education. Finally, we suggest that teachers engage in ongoing classroom action research where they work with Aboriginal students and their communities to bring about change in attitudes and understanding.
Table 1: Australian Government Policies in Aboriginal Education

Policy Document Overview

Aboriginal This New South Wales policy was designed to
Education Policy provide teachers and associated groups with
(1982) a base from which to develop education programs
 for children. It identified Aboriginal
 Education as having a dual propose, firstly to
 enhance the development and learning of
 Aboriginal students and secondly, to
 enable all students to have some knowledge,
 understanding and appreciation of Aborigines
 and their culture.

National Aboriginal This policy statement (commonly referred to as
and Torres Strait the AEP) endorsed by all states and territories
Islander Education outlines the purpose of the policy (responding
Policy. Joint Policy to Aboriginal needs and aspirations), common
Statement. (1989) goals (educational principles, long-term goals,
 and intermediate priorities), and arrangements
 for policy implementation strategic planing,
 financial monitoring, evaluation and review

State Aboriginal The central theme of the policy is to promote
Education Policy educational achievements by Aboriginal students
(NSW 1995) in the context of educating all students about
 Aboriginal Australia. This policy statement
 provides a comprehensive set of outcomes, as
 well as performance strategies to guide all
 Department of School Education staff, schools,
 students and their communities in achieving the
 overall goals for Aboriginal education.

Literacy for All: The Commonwealth's literacy and numeracy
The Challenge for policies are directed towards strengthening the
Australian Schools. literacy and numeracy achievements of all
Commonwealth Australian school children.
Literacy Policies for
Australian Schools

The Adelaide The Ministerial Council on Education,
Declaration on Employment, Training and Youth Affairs agreed
National Goals for to establish a Working Group to undertake work
Schooling in the relating to educational equality, enhancing
Twenty-First performance and monitoring frameworks, and
Century (1999) providing advice to the Commonwealth on
 National Indigenous English Literacy and
 Numeracy Strategy and the National Indigenous
 Students' School Attendance Strategy.

National Indigenous This document extends across preschool and
English Literacy and school systems. Education providers are
Numeracy Strategy encouraged to adopt approaches to teaching that
2000-2004 (2000) have been shown to make a real difference for
 Indigenous students. There are extensive
 resources available for the education of
 all Australian children through recurrent
 funding. This strategy heightens awareness
 of Indigenous literacy and numeracy issues and
 seeks to accelerate implementation of
 successful teaching practices.
Aboriginal English Standard Australian Example

 p or b F past - fast
 pulla - fulla (fellow)
 b or p v [h]ab - have
 ober - over
 t or d th dat - that
 ting - thing

References: Government reports and policies

Batten, M., Frigo, T., Hughes, P. & McNamara, N. 1998, Enhancing English Literacy Skills in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students ((Research Monograph No. 54) A Review of the Literature and Case Studies in Primary Schools, ACER Press, Melbourne.

Commonwealth of Australia 1999, National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2000-2004, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. Commonwealth Government, 2000, Katu Kalpa: Report on the Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Education and Training Programs for Indigenous Australians, Australian Government Printing Office, Canberra.

Commonwealth Government of Australia, 2000, OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy Australian Background Report, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Department of Employment Education and Training 1989, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Department of Employment Education Training and Youth Affairs 1997, Community Literacy Practices and Schooling: Towards Effective Support for Students, Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra.

Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs 1998, Literacy for All: The Challenge for Australian Schools. Commonwealth Literacy Policies for Australian Schools, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2000, National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education--Education Access, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Sydney.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2000, National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education--Emerging Themes, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Sydney.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2000, National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education--Recommendations, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Sydney.

Lo Bianco, J. & Freebody, P. 2001, Australian Literacies Informing National Policy on Literacy Education, Language Australia, Melbourne.

Masters, G. & Forster, M. 1997, Mapping Literacy Achievement: Results of the 1996 National School English Literacy Survey, DEETYA, Canberra.

Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 1999, The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, MCEETYA Secretariat, Melbourne.

Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2000, Achieving Educational Equality for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples--Discussion Paper, MCEETYA Secretariat, Melbourne.

National Board of Employment Education and Training Schools Council 1992, `Developing Flexible Strategies in the Early Years of Schooling: Purposes and Possibilities', Compulsory Years of Schooling Project. The Early Years of Schooling, Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra.

NSW Department of Education 1982, Aboriginal Education Policy, NSW Department of Education, Sydney.


Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996, Australia's National Population Census, Canberra

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Information Paper: ABS Views on Remoteness, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Bartunek, J.M. & Louis, M.R. 1996, Insider/outsider Team Research, Sage, London.

Boyacilliger, N.A. & Adler, N.J. 1991, `The parochial dinosaur: Organisational science in a global context', Academy of Management Review, vol. 16, pp. 262-290.

Brayboy, B.M. & Deyhle, D. 2000, `Insider-outsider: Researchers in American Indian communities', Theory into Practice, vol. 39 no. 3, pp. 163-69.

Department of Employment Education and Training, 1995, National Review of Education for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People: Final Report, Department of Employment Education & Training, Canberra.

Dunn, M. 1999, `Tracking literacy development in an Aboriginal community: Summary of a research project', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 103-119.

Easterby-Smith, M. & Malina, D. 1999, `Cross-cultural collaborative research: Toward reflexivity', Academy of Management Journal, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 76-86.

Freebody, P., Ludwig C., Gunn, S. 1995, Everyday Literacy Practices In and Out of School in Low Socio-economic Urban Communities, Griffith University, Brisbane.

Groome, H. 1995, Working Purposefully with Aboriginal children, Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls.

Hill, S. 1997, `Perspectives on early literacy and home-school connections', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 263-279.

Masters, G. & Forster, M. 1997, Mapping Literacy Achievement: Results of the 1996 National School English Literacy Survey, DEETYA, Canberra.

Morey, N. C. & Luthans, E 1985, `Refining the displacement of culture and the use of scenes and themes in organizational studies', Academy of Management Review, vol. 10, pp. 219-229.

Munns, G., Simpson, L. & Clancy, S. 1999, `A Room With All Views?: The Aboriginal community room as a site and metaphor', Paper presented at the AARE-NZARE Conference, Melbourne.

Munns, G., Simpson, L., Connelly, J. & Townsend, T. 1999, `Baiyai--meeting place of two parties: The Pedagogical Literacy Relationship', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 147-164.

Pugh, J. & Brooks, E 2000, `Insider/outsider partnerships in an ethnographic study of shared governance', Nursing Standard, vol. 14, no. 27, p. 43.

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Susan Clancy is a literacy education lecturer at Charles Sturt University. Her research interests are in early childhood and Aboriginal literacy and the implementation of critical literacy practices in the classroom.

Address: School of Education, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 588, Wagga Wagga NSW 2678


Lee Simpson lectures in Indigenous Education at the University of Melbourne. She is involved in researching Indigenous Education issues with a special interest in Aboriginal literacy and educational outcomes.

Address: Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052

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Author:Clancy, Susan; Simpson, Lee
Publication:Australian Journal of Language and Literacy
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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