Source: Silburn SR, Nutton GD, McKenzie JW and Landrigan M, 2011. The Centre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT. Australia
Summary: Remote and very remote Australian Indigenous children form a higher proportion of the student cohort in the Northern Territory by comparison to neighbouring Queensland, Western Australia or South Australia. While these jurisdictions share many of the socio-demographic, geographic, linguistic and cultural contexts of the Northern Territory’s remote and Indigenous population they have generally lower rates of risk factors such as over-crowded housing.
Children in very remote NT communities have less exposure to spoken English outside of school than their inter-state counterparts due to the much lower proportions of adults who speak English at home or who have 10 or more years of school education (McKenzie, 2010). Improving Indigenous educational outcomes is a national priority and a key feature of the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy endorsed by all Australian governments. This is supported by evidence that improving outcomes of early years learning is critical to subsequent trajectories of education, life-long learning and overcoming socio-economic disadvantage.
Early childhood and primary school English language acquisition is predictive of subsequent outcomes of English oracy, school attendance and participation. Children’s proficiency in their home language is also considered important to their identity, self esteem and cultural continuity. Most of the descriptive and theoretically based literature is premised on the necessity of healthy and appropriate early language and concept development in first language.
This review has focused on the national and international evidence most relevant to the contextual features of greatest challenge to an effective service delivery model in remote Indigenous settings.