THOUSANDS of indigenous students across Australia are missing out on extra
tutorial assistance under changes to the Commonwealth's indigenous education
And schools have received almost $2 million less in funds this year under the
program, leading to a deterioration in relationships between schools and the
These are some of the findings of an Australian Education Union survey of 561
schools with 17,451 indigenous enrolments, including responses from 91 Victorian
Of these, 67 per cent said the changes to indigenous education funding were
negative, compared with 4 per cent that thought they were positive.
"Schools with indigenous enrolments, many in Australia's capital cities, have
commented that these funding policies have caused further disadvantage to
indigenous students," the report said. "Schools are dismayed that indigenous
parents are 'voting with their feet' and staying away from the school because
they felt 'disenfranchised'."
So far this year, 2745 fewer indigenous students accessed tutorial
assistance, with 447 tutors losing their jobs, of whom 265 were indigenous
Previously, all indigenous students were eligible for extra tutorial support.
But under the policy change, students in capital city schools with fewer than 20
indigenous students are ineligible. To access the assistance scheme, students
must have failed to meet the national literacy and numeracy benchmarks in years
3, 5 and 7. There is also some funding for students in years 10 to 12 to receive
tutoring outside school hours.
The union called for an "urgent and independent assessment" of funding
changes, and said the Commonwealth needed to work with the states and
territories in the interim to minimise the damage.
A spokesman for Education Minister Brendan Nelson said federal funding had
increased by more than 20 per cent. "The AEU has conveniently forgotten that
these federal programs are meant to supplement, not replace, mainstream state
education funding, which is the responsibility of the State Government," the
"Indigenous students in metropolitan areas have better access to mainstream
education services and the Government has unashamedly redirected funding to
those indigenous students of greatest educational disadvantage — those in remote
The Opposition's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said many schools —
including remote ones — had applied for funding but were yet to receive it.
"Their (the students') capacity to learn has been put back because the Howard
Government has been so incompetent in delivering them much needed money," she
A spokesman for Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky said that in
metropolitan Melbourne, of the 218 indigenous students who failed to meet the
literacy and numeracy benchmarks, 193 were not eligible due to the changes.
Funding for the tutorial assistance will be available to Victorian schools
from next term.