Report finds need for indigenous teacher support

Dr Maxine Cooper

ACT auditor-general Dr Maxine Cooper

A REPORT, which looked at how five public schools engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, revealed “significant issues” of mandatory reporting for those who need help.

The report, conducted by ACT auditor-general Dr Maxine Cooper, found that audited schools are engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and their community and are exhibiting cultural sensitivity, but it also found a significant issue, which is the fear of mandatory reporting if a person identifies that they need any help. 

The audit report suggested that, while mandatory reporting is not solely about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, the high rate of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, locally and nationally, is of note. And, addressing the fear of mandatory reporting is beyond the remit of just the Education Directorate.

“There is an opportunity for the Directorate, in partnership with Community Services Directorate, to train and support all school staff in how to have a child protection system focused on a culture of support while meeting reporting obligations,” Ms Cooper says.

In a new plan, which is being developed by the Directorate, Ms Cooper says there needs to be a focus on increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and school staff and providing them with professional support.

She says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (Indigenous Education Officers (IEOs)) have an important role in supporting teachers and staff in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and community, but, more has been expected of them in providing direct support, which is outside their role.

“It may be appropriate to build capacity in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to provide the direct support,” Ms Cooper says. 

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