Doing things right way: dimensions of excellence in Indigenous education in Queensland secondary schools

Year: 2019

Author: Shay, Marnee, Miller, Jodie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Education is a site of social, cultural and economic inclusion or exclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Access to a good quality education is a well-known social determinant for social, health and economic outcomes. Yet, the Australian Government continues to struggle to deliver equitable educational outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Much Indigenous education research that investigates these disparities continues to reinforce language of deficits, failures, gaps and underachievement. The term excellence has emerged from Indigenous communities around the nation as a way of speaking back to these deficits. In small pockets of social media or in the naming of various educational programs, for example, the term excellence is being used with a limited understanding of what constitutes Indigenous education excellence and the ways in which this conceptualisation can be used to recognise Indigenous knowledges and strengths in order to inform the changes needed in the system to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous young people.

A search within the academic literature and policy of the terms ‘Indigenous education’ and ‘excellence’ in education demonstrates the conceptual, ideological, and practical distance between these two concepts within mainstream discourses. The aim of our study is to commence the creation of a data set that maps the perspectives, understandings, aspirations and experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and leaders to make visible what they see as excellence in Indigenous education and to begin to conceptualise a practice and policy framework that reflects these aspirations. In this paper, we will share our findings from a qualitative case study undertaken over 12 months in three diverse schools in Queensland.