By Celeste Larkins
Approximately 264 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school. They dream of a life where they can have an education. Working in international development, we know education is a key factor in reducing the poverty cycle.
In Australia, we are extremely lucky to have public education for all children, which is why it might sound surprising that in some communities, there are children missing out on years of school or even their entire schooling. This has huge ramifications for their future abilities to live a fulfilling purposeful life.
In Carnarvon, a small town we work, school non-attendance is high, and with the support of community, government and supporting organisations changing attitudes and the culture of schooling and education is a key priority area.
There are many reasons why education is not a priority and after going on the school pick up bus you can see larger social issues which prevent children going to school exist. Run-down and insecure housing, family alcohol and other drug issues, lack of food security. Talking with locals, many of these social issues exist due to intergenerational trauma from past Government policies, including the Stolen Generation.
Children were taken from their families and to be brought up in institutions, fostered out or adopted by white families. Children lost their connection to family, culture, land and language. Not only does this contribute largely to current social issues within Aboriginal communities, but also has create a sense of distrust to ‘white’ education (AIATSIS).
However, with the support of the community, the school and the local Remote School Attendance Strategy team (who are part of Ngala Midwest & Gascoyne), there has been progress in supporting parents to get their children to school, and change the current perception. This takes a lot of dedicated people and a holistic approach to support families. Local leaders identify education is important for their community’s future, but are also passionate in passing down traditional culture.
For the past few years we have been working with the Carnarvon community and the Remote School Attendance Strategy team to develop local video and radio content to promote school and education. We have spoken with Elders, right through to kindy students about what education means to them. Recently we developed a set of videos which the Carnarvon community engaged with and we had great feedback. You can check one of them out here: