National Day of Action Against Bullying & Violence
March 21, 2014
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March 24, 2014

Ramping up the bid to end truancy – considerations for success

By Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘Rollout ramped up in bid to beat truancy’, by Patricia Karvelas, published in The Weekend Australian, 22-23 mMarch 2014

Karvelas reports that “an extra 30 indigenous communities will be included in the Abbott government’s national truancy plan in term two, despite mixed results in the first six weeks of the school year.”


Data provided to The Weekend Australian shows that 614 more children in the targeted areas are attending school this term than in the same period last year. Thirty communities will be added to the 40 already taking part in the Remote School Attendance Strategy.

Tony Abbott and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said in a joint statement “We will work with state and territory governments to identify schools with poor school attendance which will benefit most from this extended investment. One of the worst forms of neglect is failing to give children the education they need for a decent life.”

The expansion of the scheme, covering Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW, will add $18.1 million to the $28.4m committed to the end of next year.

Latest data for the 17 public schools from the Territory, which accounts for 20 of the 40 communities already involved, shows the overall number of children attending school, including increased enrolment, is up by 18 per cent on the same period last year. Attendance rates at individual schools have increased by up to 18 percentage points. The scheme already has 366 school attendance officers and supervisors with a further 75 awaiting working-with-children checks. The expansion will add a further 268 supervisors and officers. Employment is based on five officers and one supervisor for each 100 students enrolled.

The statistics show improvement in attendance. However as Senator Scullion says: “Getting bums on seats is not the end game. We must ensure children are getting a quality education. That is what will equip this generation for a future focused on securing work and a career.”

Senator Scullion said anecdotal evidence was that principals had noticed for the first time that parents were advising schools of the reasons for their absences.

Having just finished the compelling read of Dog Ear Cafe by Andrew Stojanovski on the development and success of the Mt Theo program, which saved the lives of youth from petrol sniffing and eradicated petrol sniffing from Yuendumu, a number of considerations for success come to mind and these were elucidated by Stojanovski.

  • The importance of the program needs to be defined and owned by the community.
  • Community people need to be employed as officers and the placing of their community relationships can become central to the success of motivating and protecting youth and children in a sustainable way.
  • The importance of schooling to save lives needs to be underlined and can be achieved by a community working on inspiration, what is inspiring and imagining a future.
  • Culture and love were also essential ingredients.

Hopefully the funds for the truancy program uphold these determinants to success. Interestingly, the workers and key community members and families became involved in a roll out program taking the youth who were petrol sniffing to Mt Theo and most at the time did not want to leave their communities or their petrol; government officials could not have achieved such an outcome.