Go to top of page

Aboriginal Education Strategy

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge and respect Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations, and recognise Aboriginal people as traditional owners and occupants of South Australian land and waters.

Aboriginal Education Strategy

The Aboriginal Education Strategy (PDF 6.7MB) was released in December 2018 to support Aboriginal students in reaching their full potential.

By nurturing strong foundations in the early years, building on both individual and shared strengths to sustain excellence, valuing wellbeing and enabling self-determined pathways to success:

'the AES will ensure our students not only survive but thrive academically, culturally and socially throughout their learning journey.'
–  Professor Peter Buckskin, chairperson of the South Australian Aboriginal Education and Training Consultative Council (SAAETCC).

The strategy is recognition of the importance of reconciliation, and is underpinned by the development of a culturally responsive workforce within the department. Through continued commitment:

'we need to take action to improve the way we work alongside families and communities to accelerate learning outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people.'
–  Rick Persse, Chief Executive, Department for Education.

About the strategy

The strategy focuses on empowering our Aboriginal students as proud and confident learners, on their paths from birth through to beyond school.

It will also:

  • increase opportunities for children and young people across South Australia to engage with Aboriginal languages
  • create learning environments that respond to students’ cultural needs
  • develop detailed individual learning plans for Aboriginal learners at all of our schools.

An implementation plan for the first 3 years sets out key actions and milestones. Educators, leaders and support services are implementing the strategy at the local level, regularly communicating and collaborating on progress with families and communities.

View the Aboriginal Education Strategy (PDF 6.7MB).

Strategy goals and focus areas

The goals of the strategy are:

To support the strategy we have:

  • Developed the Aboriginal Learner Achievement Leaders’ resource for Aboriginal students, as part of the school improvement planning process.
  • Established an Aboriginal senior officers consultative group to develop mechanisms to enable greater voice and engagement of the Aboriginal workforce in the development and review of polices, processes and initiatives.
  • Established an expert advisory panel to provide regular input into the implementation of the strategy.

We are also supporting the strategy by:

  • Building a strong Aboriginal workforce, whose development is supported and who have confidence in their career opportunities.
  • Reviewing and simplifying the funding policy for Aboriginal students to allow us to focus on the range of learning goals amongst Aboriginal students.

Updates about how our goals are developing

Goal 1: Aboriginal children develop foundations for success in the early years

Culturally responsive teaching

This project researched how a culturally responsive method of teaching can be implemented in South Australian early childhood settings. The method respects and integrates First Nations perspectives and knowledge systems in teaching approaches, acknowledging the diversity of Aboriginal cultural identities.

Evaluation of Learning Together programs

We are evaluating the Learning Together and Learning Together at Home programs. We will use the evidence gained to invest in programs aimed at engaging children in their learning and developing literacy skills, with collaboration between families and schools.

Parent support workshops

We worked with Aboriginal communities to develop a pilot program to start parent support workshops. This project is complete and is now managed by the Department of Human Services.

One Plan

We developed online learning plans, which are personalised to ensure that Aboriginal students are supported to achieve their full potential. One Plan promotes the continuity of learning through an individualised learning plan for all Aboriginal learners in preschools and schools. We are on track to have this implemented across most partnerships by the end of 2020.

Goal 2: Aboriginal children and young people excel at school

Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander English as an additional language or dialect (EALD) development hub

We started the online 'EAL/D Hub'. The hub is designed to help teachers provide high-quality education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners who learn English as an additional language or dialect.

Watch the case study video below from Port Augusta Secondary School to learn about the benefits of the EAL/D Hub for students and teachers.

High school case study video transcript

Aboriginal Education Strategy EAL/D Hub.

Angela Hancock, Aboriginal Education Director and Assistant Principal, Port Augusta Secondary School: Aboriginal English is the language some of the Aboriginal students here at Port Augusta Secondary School use. It is English, but there's a lot also of Aboriginal terms, words within their speaking vocab. Some of the students then transfer it to when they write. It's different from Standard Australian English. So students need to be able to code switch, like when they're with their friends or their family, and then when they come to school, being able to change over to Standard Australian English when they're writing.

Some of the struggles that the students had were they were coming into Port Augusta Secondary School with low level literacy, then had trouble accessing the curriculum at year 8. We introduced also two EAL/D classes this year, did a trial last year but introduced formally for year 8 students. So it's all about improvements for the students and them achieving. The EAL/D Hub is implemented in a few ways throughout the school.

The school services officers have actually been invited to do the modules. So they're working with lots of Aboriginal students within the school. So it's directly relating to the work that they do. That's one aspect. The second is the Aboriginal secondary education transition officers worked with the coach and they worked through the first eight modules, which have a big Aboriginal focus.

Sarada Surampudi, EAL/D Hub Coach, Port Augusta Secondary School: At Port Augusta Secondary School, the leadership has agreed to go on with the EAL/D Hub online with a team of teachers, and the teachers do their e-books in their own time. And I support them in facilitating the professional learning community. So each time we have the professional learning community, the teachers bring in a lot of expertise and we share around, and reflect around the key messages of that particular e-book. And I design an activity which can be transferred into the learning into the school context.

Ian Gentle, Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Port Augusta Secondary School: Aboriginal English as a dialect to me is something that I've grown up with here in Port Augusta. Aboriginal English is used all over Australia and as different Aboriginal groups we use different words from the English dictionary to pronounce different words or meanings depending on where you are in the country. But I feel that, yeah growing up here in Port Augusta, you will use very similar words, you'd hear it throughout the community. Some people will come from other communities also into Port Augusta. And you'd hear different dialects from different places using Aboriginal English. So some of the simple ones is like using the word deadly as something that is good, awesome.

Angie Potter, EAL/D Class Teacher, Port Augusta Secondary School: What changed for me in the classroom is having those open, frank conversations with the kids about speaking different languages. So they haven't really, I don't think they have acknowledged before that they speak a different language. So we're having those conversations, they're a lot more open to what we're learning in the class. They know that they're not speaking English wrong, they're just speaking a different type of English. So for them having those conversations and learning about Aboriginal English, so they've definitely been open to more skills and how they can apply what we've been doing in our classroom into their other classes, because it's not always a conversation that they've had and they probably never had that conversation before.

So it's been really helpful for my teaching, for them to acknowledge that, for me to acknowledge it, to give them that validation that they're speaking a real language and then working on how we can progress their Standard Australian English. I've seen a positive impact on teacher capacity by doing or teachers doing the EAL/D Hub online, using the capability framework, which is part of the EAL/D Hub modules, is there's opportunity through the learning journals and the pre-assessment and the post-assessment.

Sarada Surampudi, EAL/D Hub Coach, Port Augusta Secondary School: It's a tool that you can use to improve your teaching practice or what you're doing in class. So it directly relates back to what the teachers are doing with students within their classes. The difference I have seen in teachers’ practice in the classroom is massive, as in understanding the culture of the school, especially our Aboriginal students, where they come from and what language they use in day-to-day life. And how can we transform that into Standard Australian English.

Angie Potter, EAL/D Teacher, Port Augusta Secondary School: Having the action tasks and having our little community to do with the EAL/D Hub has been really beneficial. I only started the hub this year and we've had it at our school for two years. So I came into that community where we've been talking about the different e-books and the different activities, and like what impacts they're having around all different subjects. So for me, I'm teaching English and I already kind of teach those skills, not in as much detail, but I've already been teaching them in the past. So to be able to see how they're applying in different subjects around the school and how different teachers are approaching it, it's really helpful to have those conversations and to really think about how we can help our students who don't have a high level of Standard Australian English, and how we can help them progress in the classes all over the school, not just in my single class.

Ian Gentle, Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Port Augusta Secondary School: So the induction resource that I helped create alongside with the other ACETOs here at PASS, is something very beneficial, I think, to be able to reach out to other staffing members, if they're unsure about what the program is about or how it's going to benefit them or the students and the wider community. I feel that the introduction is an easy way for them to sit down and read it in their own time, rather than being more in their face about saying we have to get on board about it, but it's more of a soft approach. Start those small conversations to try and change their mindset on making changes within themselves and how they could benefit from using the EAL/D hub to better communicate with students.

Angie Potter, EAL/D Teacher, Port Augusta Secondary School: So the advice I would give to a school or a teacher considering using the EAL/D Hub is to really take it seriously and take it on board. So it's really beneficial. It made me think about the language I use in my classroom and how a lot of students wouldn't be able to access that kind of language to take on the hub and to see how it's actually going to benefit them in the classroom. Because I feel that to be able to teach somebody from a different culture, you first have to understand their culture.

Ian Gentle, Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Port Augusta Secondary School: And it's really hard because there's a lot of say like issues behind the scenes that may happen. So even though it's not just EAL/D itself, like with the Aboriginal English and learning Standard Australian English, there's a lot more stuff embedded in Aboriginal culture that people do need to be aware of because a lot of things that might just come off and seem like behaviour management stuff, but really it is that deeper stuff that is happening. So yeah, for teaching staff or just people in general, I believe that if we're going to teach anything, we need to have a better understanding of their culture. And I think cultural awareness in any form is something that will benefit everybody and anybody.

Angela Hancock, Aboriginal Education Director and Assistant Principal, Port Augusta Secondary School: The thing I've noticed is that students are more engaged with their learning and more involved. They see themselves as a learner. The teachers that are involved with the EAL/D classes, as well as the modules are explicitly teaching the different content and going back to the students. So students are making improvements in different areas of the curriculum as well. And so it's having a flow on effect, not just in literacy as in English, but also in maths, science and the other curriculum areas. And also recognising that standard Australian English is used in schools, they can code switch. They can speak their own language, and they're both very valuable and important.

End of transcript.

Strengthening languages and literacy

We are expanding existing programs to increase opportunities for children and young people to engage with Aboriginal languages and culture through observation and experience.

Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language and culture

We are increasing the resources, professional learning, support and pathways for Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language and culture. This project will provide opportunities for Aṉangu teachers to build on their skills and help identify ways to integrate the Australian Curriculum through Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language.

For non-Aṉangu teachers this project will provide opportunities to engage in Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara language and culture learning. Teachers will develop their skills to work alongside Aṉangu teachers to deliver the Australian Curriculum and SACE. This will provide teachers with strategies to transfer literacy skills from students’ first languages to Standard Australian English.

South Australian Aboriginal contexts in science initiative

This initiative brings together Elders and community members from participating South Australian Aboriginal Nations and nominated high school science teachers. With support from the department and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), Elders and community members are working with teachers to embed South Australian Aboriginal understanding, knowledge and ways of knowing into high-quality teaching resources that are aligned with the 95 new science elaborations within the Australian Curriculum: Science Years 7-10.

Goal 3: Aboriginal young people on pathways to success

Employment and traineeship pathways

We are strengthening collaboration within the department to better support employment and traineeship pathways for Aboriginal students. We aim to develop student entry points into the workforce while at school.

Workabout expansion

We are expanding the Workabout program to ensure Aboriginal students can utilise their skills to successfully transition from study to employment, training, or further education.

SAASTA expansion

We increased the number of South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academies (SAASTA) from 16 to 21 to provide greater access for Aboriginal students across South Australia. The expansion included the Aboriginal Women’s AFLW Academy, Aboriginal Basketball Academy and STEM Academy.

Development of the strategy

Background information about the strategy

The strategy was designed in partnership with Professor Peter Buckskin, chairperson of the South Australian Aboriginal Education and Training Consultative Council (SAAETCC) and informed by consultation with Aboriginal students, families, communities and our workforce.

Consultation activities included:

  • face to face consultation sessions for families, parents, carers and the community held across 18 metro and country South Australian locations
  • an online survey, YourSAy page and discussion board, developed by the South Australian Aboriginal Education and Training Consultative Council (SAAETCC)
  • a community forum on the APY lands held in conjunction with the Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Education Committee (PYEC) 
  • a student forum for Aboriginal secondary school students 
  • an online survey for Aboriginal primary and secondary school students to provide input
  • sessions for staff, other government and non-government agencies, expert groups and committees were held in both metro and some country SA locations. 

What this means for children and young people

Aboriginal children and young people will be supported through:

  • responsive learning environments that are inclusive of their cultural needs
  • more confident and supported educators who engage with their families
  • increased access to learning and development programs
  • increased engagement with Aboriginal cultures and language programs
  • individualised learning plans that identify personalised support needed to participate
  • and achieve in education and pathways to further education and employment.

What this means for families and communities

Aboriginal families and communities will:

  • be active participants in their child’s development through contributions to individualised learning plans
  • have input and participation across our services, including within governance structures 
  • have opportunities to engage in the teaching and delivery of Aboriginal cultural knowledge and languages within education settings.

Read more on the above in the key initiatives document (PDF 1.6MB).


Aboriginal Education Directorate

Phone: 8226 4391
Email: education.aboriginalstrategy [at] sa.gov.au