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Ways of increasing educational achievement and economic participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the focus of a paper released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

The paper, Improving labour market outcomes through education and training, notes that the level of attainment by Indigenous Australians in education and training has improved.

The proportion of Indigenous people who had completed Year 12 or above rose from 20.2% to 24.9% between 2006 and 2011, while apparent retention rates for Indigenous students from Years 7/8 to Year 12 rose from 38% to 51% between 2002 and 2012.

But substantial gaps remain between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in education attainment and employment-44% of the Indigenous population was employed in 2011 compared with 72% of the non-Indigenous population.

The low level of educational attainment is a key factor in the poor employment rate of Indigenous Australians with over 80% of the difference between the Indigenous and non‑Indigenous employment rates attributed to differences in education.

Increased levels of educational attainment would lead to a large improvement in employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

The paper outlines the evidence from Australia and overseas on what works to improve education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians including the following.

  • Strong leadership by school principals to raise the quality of teaching and student learning through implementation of common instructional approaches to the teaching of literacy and numeracy.
  • Social workers and parents working together to improve school attendance for Indigenous Australians.
  • Parental engagement in the decisions that affect their children's participation in schools.
  • The allocation of mentors early in apprenticeships and traineeships to improve retention rates in those programs.
  • Among employers, a commitment by senior and middle managers and work colleagues to sustained engagement of Indigenous Australians in work and training.

A second Clearinghouse paper, Increasing employment rates for Indigenous people with a disability, identifies the principles that underpin the most successful employment programs for people with a disability.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 28 February 2014

Further information: Jess Cumming, AIHW, tel. 02 6249 5033 mob. 0401 769 793 or Elizabeth Ingram, tel. 6249 5048 or 0431 871 337