Project lead: Charles Darwin University

Project funding:   $50,000   Round 1   2012Charles Darwin University and Northern Territory Govt logos

This project is a partnership between Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory Department of Education and the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land. Research was undertaken through conversations, workshops, literature review and listening to the people who are teaching on country, who stated that they have been consulted on education many times in the past but have seen no real change.

The project addresses the issue of pathways to teacher training for Indigenous teachers in remote Indigenous communities in far north Australia. Information gathered was to guide the development of a resource to share with partner agencies.

This project aimed to:

  • assemble past and current teacher training initiatives, current Indigenous workforce profile and pathways to success;
  • develop a resource to share with partner agencies and to guide further action research;
  • inform work with communities and capacity building initiatives to strengthen Indigenous teaching infrastructure and pathways; and
  • identify the literature on pathways to teacher training in remote Indigenous communities and publish in one place.

Project deliverables include exemplars of training pathways, funding models, program characteristics, employment strategies and ‘sense of ownership’ practices which should become ‘business as usual’ in mainstream teacher education.

Yolngu teaching starting points are connected to relationships, language, land, culture and family which shape education for children. Acknowledging these starting points forces a rethink of pathways and support structures for ‘Yolngu Teachers’ living and learning on country.

The projects key findings include:

  • The term ‘remote’ is a value judgement. The Yolngu way of life is central to education, not remote from it.
  • Becoming a teacher on country involves multiple negotiations undertaken in the context of community and cultural responsibilities. Management of teacher education programs and curriculum development is often disconnected from the community in which the school is located. Teacher education institutions need to build more sustainable approaches to initial teacher education on country.
  • A range of employment practices support Yolngu people becoming registered teachers but these are often linked to short term funding cycles. This and an apparent disregard for Yolngu knowledge practices lead to Yolngu rejecting programs and pathways as inadequate responses to community needs or impractical for preservice teachers trying to navigate them.
  • Turnover of Yolngu Teachers is low compared to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers. However there can be unevenness in salaries, conditions and benefits. For example, incorrect spelling of names and timely activation of contracts hampers employment.

Project assets

The following reports were produced from this project:

Listening differently: an exploration of grey literature about Aboriginal teacher education in the Top End of the Northern Territory (PDF) 

Pathways for Yolŋu Teachers: rethinking initial teacher education (ITE) on country (PDF)

Key messages for systems, teacher education institutions and educators (PDF)

Key Messages and Yolŋu responses (PDF)

MATSITI evaluation conclusions

This project has produced comprehensive research about teaching on country. While it points out the wide cultural gaps between Yolngu educators and the providers of initial teacher education, it offers some important ways forward including the need for respect of the Yolngu knowledges and cultures which can only come from continued and careful listening.


The value of this research may be realised through relevant follow up activities with initial teacher education providers, employers and people living on country. Such activities need to aim for providing a complete education for children and young people living on country.

Project contact: Dr Sue Shore, Associate Professor in Education (Research), School of Education, Charles Darwin University

Pathways to teacher training in remote Indigenous communities project announcement 2012 »

MATSITI Evaluation Final Report »


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