March 15, 2021

Understanding Remote Indigenous Families

For boarding schools with Indigenous students from remote communities, family engagement is an important aspect to support their children’s transition to boarding, retention and academic outcomes.

Whilst all families have their individual characteristics, needs and circumstances the evaluation of the Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) identified four main family types.  These family types are broad, each with different experiences and distinct perspectives of RSAS, school, education and their engagement with community. These are:

  • Committed Families – these families are pro-education, but occasionally need practical support to help them get their children to school. These families viewed school as a stepping-stone to achieving their goals.
  • Protective Families – Protective families would like their children to attend school but need assurances their children will be safe travelling to and from school, and at school. They protected their children by keeping them home from school and things they thought were harmful.
  • Unsure Families – these families value the importance of traditional ways of life for the wellbeing of their children and community. These families are often unsure that education would lead to a job, and did not think school would teach or value culture.
  • Disconnected Families – these families are socially isolated and need more social support and help to engage with the community and other services to help get their children to school. These families wanted their children to go to school, but did not always know how to do it, who to ask for help or want to be a bother or cause any conflict by doing the wrong thing.

In addition to the four main family types, many families can also occasionally experience Complex Life Events, difficult times and experience which impact on school attendance. Complex Life Events can be things like substance abuse, homelessness or domestic violence.

Although the evaluation looked at remote schools, understanding these family types is important in how school staff might approach families to best understand their needs.

The RSAS focus is on getting children into the classroom and keeping them there. The RSAS supports over 13,000 students and their families across 84 remote schools to ensure children in remote areas get a good education and a good start in life. The Australian Government in 2019 committed $78.4 million to extend the program for three years until 31 December 2021.

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