Australian Journal of Education

Article Title

Policy, practice and the ‘revolving classroom door’ : examining the relationship between Aboriginal spatiality and the mainstream education system


Indigenous academic outcomes are in many ways negotiated at the interface between student spatialities—including their residential patterns and choices— and the mainstream school system. The current model of education delivery rewards regular attendance at well-resourced schools. Conversely, sporadic interactions with under-resourced schools generally produce poor educational outcomes. This paper draws on qualitative case-study research in Yamatji country, Western Australia, to present a grounded analysis of the mutually effectual relationship between the mainstream education system and Aboriginal spatiality. It begins with a discussion of how school location and standards influence Aboriginal migration and residence choices, and outlines the significant policy implications of this relationship. It then examines the impacts of Aboriginal itinerancy on student learning and school functionality, and critically evaluates a number of strategies for tackling student mobility in terms of their applicability and appropriateness to Indigenous contexts. The paper ultimately argues the need for researchers, policymakers and educators to engage more intentionally with the spatial practices of Aboriginal students.