Theorising the impacts of boarding school participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Increased focus and attention has been paid in recent years to providing remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with access to high quality schooling opportunities. Often, this requires attendance at secondary schooling away from their hometowns or communities, through accessing boarding schools or residential programs. The stated intents of many of these boarding programs often follow themes of providing equitable opportunities for education, improving opportunities for year 12 completion, increasing participation in further and higher education, and improving employment prospects. However, despite a growing body of qualitative-based research on the expectations, transitions and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families engaging with boarding schools, the outcomes of this education are largely unidentified or reported. This paper draws on the work and experiences of a number of authors who have had varied roles as researchers or practitioners in boarding schools and remote education systems. It aims to synthesise findings from studies conducted on boarding in the past 10 years, and through a collaborative process, explore a range of theoretical approaches that may aid in examining the causal pathways and accompanying mechanisms contributing to boarding school outcomes. In doing so, we propose key areas and directions for future research in this field to inform future and practice.