composition creativity desk education

First Nations students deserve better

Shani Thomas

Anangu students in the APY Lands are not receiving adequate education from ‘failed schools’, according to an ex-principal of a remote First Nations school.

Former Ernabella Anangu School’s principal, Peter Kenny, says the government has failed to help remote APY schooling and wants a ‘total review’ of its management.

Kenny has worked for over thirty years in Australian and international education systems as a principal in Hong Kong and Germany and a regional adviser for UNICEF and UNESCO. 

His varied educational experience has highlighted the ‘shocking’ state of the Aboriginal education system.

“Aboriginal education in Australia is among the worst internationally and an indictment of the nation,” Kenny said.

Cheryl van Wageningen is of Ngarrindjeri and Peramangk descent and experienced First Nations education as a student and music educator.

“There are many varied challenges facing [First Nations students],” van Wageningen said.

She has witnessed how First Nations relocating from remote areas to study in the city separates them from their Mob and causes mental and financial challenges.

Despite the frustrating educational challenges and lack of help First Nations endure, van Wageningen believes there have been a few positive educational changes.

She views including language and First Nations music in public schools as a positive step forward for First Nations sharing their culture with the broader community.

“[Musical compositions and artwork] are how Indigenous stories, knowledge and communication are passed down in families and tribes,” van Wageningen said.

Kenny acknowledges that there has been an improvement in First Nations education but wants more done to improve the teaching and opportunities for First Nations schools.

“Anangu students deserve and require high-performing teachers that are trained, rewarded and retained long term to sustain innovative changes,” Kenny said.

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