Refugee-background students in rural schools: a review of the research.

Year: 2019

Author: Brown, Jennifer, Sullivan, Anna, Slee, Roger, Baak, Melanie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Internationally, migration policies are increasingly prioritising regional refugee resettlement (McDonald-Wilmsen et al., 2009). Current research into rural resettlement of refugee-background populations has predominantly centred on support services, employment and language-learning opportunities for refugee-background adults. The push for rural resettlement means that schools in rural areas are increasingly required to respond to refugee students. As such, there is a need to examine the Australian and international research regarding education for refugee-background children in rural areas.

This review of research is framed by conceptual understandings of rural identities, rural spaces and the complexities of rural education. Rural areas have long-standing traditions of social, cultural and religious homogeneity rooted in White, Anglo-centric identities (Kline et al., 2014). These homogeneous populations have resulted in spaces that are suspicious of or potentially hostile to outsiders (Briskman, 2012). Furthermore, rural areas face contemporary challenges including aging populations, declining agricultural industries and decreasing economic opportunities (Briskman, 2012). Consequently, rural schools face increasing retention and resourcing challenges and are under pressure to do more with less (Cuervo, 2016). It is in the context of this complex interplay between traditions of exclusion and contemporary challenges that rural schools must provide educational opportunities for refugee-background students.

This paper provides valuable insights into the complexity of rural refugee education, the challenges faced by refugee-background students and rural schools and the contextual elements of rural communities that impact refugee education. It is argued that based on current trends in migration policy, rural schools and refugee-background students will continue to require support in the provision of and access to equitable and inclusive education. It is therefore essential that ongoing research is conducted regarding the unique complexities of rural refugee education to ensure socially just educational opportunities for all students in Australia.


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Kline. J, Soejatminah. S & Walker-Gibbs. B. 2014. “Space, Pace and Race: Ethics in Practice for Educational Research in Ethnically Diverse Rural Australia”. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education. 24: 3. 49-67.

McDonald-Wilmsen. D. Gifford. S. M. Webster. K. Wiseman. J. & Casey. S. 2009. “Resettling Refugees in Rural and Regional Australia: Learning from Recent Policy and Program Initiatives”. The Australian Journal of Public Administration. 68: 1. 97-111.