THIS week more than 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students graduated from the University of New England.
These 26 students may not know it, but they have become a part of history.
They are part of a generational shift toward ending the disparity in education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
A 2014 study has showed that at higher levels of education, there was little employment gap between these two groups.
But it’s getting there that is the challenge.
Attendance rates for 15-year-old Indigenous students is less than that of non-Indigenous and this equates to a 20 per cent gap in overall performance.
In 2014 the Council of Australian Governments committed to closing this gap by 2018, so far, little progress has been made.
That is because Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders still face a number of challenges to equal opportunity and equal education.
These barriers can include anything from a lack of representation of Indigenous Australians in textbooks, to overcrowded houses, lack of infrastructure, disengaged teachers or a strong connection to community that makes it difficult to pursue skills training.
Indigenous education is everyone’s business.
Individuals, families, businesses, organisations and government will have to work tirelessly to address the disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
When three per cent of the Australian population are disadvantaged in education, the entire country suffers.
That’s 669,900 descendants of a rich cultural history, 669,900 people that can, and do, make a significant contribution to Australian society.
Closing the gap in Indigenous education is something that everyone wants to happen and it’s something that needs to happen.
So this week we congratulate 26 of 669,900 people that have overcome systematic disadvantages in education.
We congratulate 26 qualified members of society that will go on to teach our children, to work in our hospitals and to contribute to a vast pool of research and knowledge.
Ending a history of systematic oppression has no simple fix, but each time a mortarboard is thrown in the air by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders’ hand we get one step closer to closing the gap.
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