Policy Insights

Publication Date



Aboriginal students; Torres Strait Islander students; Attendance patterns; Educational policy


Issue 4 of ACER's Policy Insights series commences with a synthesis of publicly available data on school attendance by Indigenous Australians, highlighting areas of major risk. It explores Australian and international literature to develop an understanding of the risk factors and protective factors involved in strengthening school attendance. The paper then articulates a number of design principles to underpin future investment and intervention policies, and concludes with proposed guideposts which could be considered by policy-makers going forward.

Educators and policy-makers are increasingly calling for ‘high expectations’ in education, including in Indigenous education. One of these expectations is improved rates of school attendance. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has included school attendance as a key Closing the Gap measure in national Indigenous affairs policy. COAG is seeking to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student attendance by 2018.

This paper posits that addressing poor school attendance has to be seen in an holistic light: firstly by recognising the multifaceted nature of the challenge; and secondly by embracing a suite of responses to meet the many interdependencies involved. The paper argues that issues concerning Indigenous students’ school attendance fundamentally represent a broader social policy challenge, not merely a challenge within education policy circles. This paper questions whether a ‘one-sizefits-all’ or an ‘across-the-board’ response may be too blunt an instrument to effect positive change. This paper argues instead, that a highly focused policy design, targeted programs and coordinated efforts at local levels, are warranted.

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Vic.


Australian Council for Educational Research




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