The University of Tasmania, with the support of MATSITI, has sought to identify what factors might encourage Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs) in Tasmania to become teachers, and also what factors discourage them from aspiring to this career path.
A major motivator for the project is the under representation of Indigenous teachers in Tasmanian schools – only 1.9% of the education workforce, whereas the Indigenous student population is closer to 8% of the total population.
The research was conducted in two group yarns¹ and twelve individual yarns with Aboriginal Education Workers across Tasmania.
Two of the significant drivers that the project identified were:
- Being able to achieve some credit against a teaching degree for their years of AEW experience (Recognition of Prior Learning, or RPL).
- A supportive school environment and, in particular, encouragement from the school Principal.
Two of the significant inhibitors were:
- Financial – the fulltime study required to become a teacher is incompatible with working to support a family.
- Lack of knowledge about teacher training pathways and the support available.
The project also sought the views and insights of AEWs on what encourages Aboriginal student engagement in school. Some of the factors identified were:
- Teachers’ rapport with students.
- Non-Indigenous teachers who value and include Indigenous perspectives.
The AEWs noted that they play an important role in maintaining student-teacher relationships and can also be role models for students and impact on the aspirations of Aboriginal students.
The project made a number of recommendations, including:
- Provide AEWs with information about existing teaching courses and pathways.
- Provide AEWs with Professional Development and paid study leave.
- The UTAS Faculty of Education, Aboriginal Education Services and Teacher Registration Board collaborate to consider RPL for AEWs enrolling in UTAS Bachelor of Education.
- Make Professional Development compulsory for non-Indigenous teachers at all levels.
- Embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the UTAS Bachelor of Education.
¹ Yarning is a way of sharing and creating knowledge that has been practised by Indigenous peoples for generations, and is a culturally appropriate methodology for working with Aboriginal people.