In this year’s Closing the Gap report, only two of the targets were on track: early childhood education and year 12 attainment. The other indicators in education, health and employment were not on track.
NAPLAN results released last month also showed Indigenous students making gains across reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation, numeracy and writing at almost twice the rate of the broader population.
Over the past decade, Indigenous student numbers at university have doubled, with graduates achieving equivalent employment outcomes to non-Indigenous counterparts.
Mr Wyatt said there should be an increased “focus on the successes” and observed two key lessons from “powerful” initiatives in education: community involvement and leadership at education providers.
“We have certainly seen that at universities where Indigenous enrolments are higher. Those universities believe in encouraging students into a range of pathways,” he said.
He also pointed to the hard work of families as a major force driving gains in education, with parents seeking to give their children a good education on top of their cultural upbringing.
Tetei Bakic, a 23-year-old psychology and social work student at Macquarie University in Sydney, said she has benefited from government-funded financial support, academic services and pastoral care.
“Those are the kind of things that set me up in my first year. They kind of demystified university for me and now I’m comfortable and that has allowed me to be successful,” she said.
Ms Bakic, who has Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage on her father’s side and Papuan and Serbian heritage on her mother’s side, said it was important for young Indigenous people to know university was an option available to them and that government-funded support programs were available.
“A lot of them don’t know we have these pathways into universities and that it’s not a big scary thing … And once they do their degree, a lot of us feel more confident going into the workforce, knowing that you’ve got the same degree that everyone else has,” she said.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.