Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student profile


Appropriate Parity Rate

An appropriate parity rate is necessary to examine comparative statistics with the non-Indigenous population, such as those identifying an achievement 'gap'.

  • The Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education (2008) and the IHER use a population parity rate of 2.2%, reflecting the proportion of the population between 15-64 years of age that is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (based on 2006 ABS population statistics).
  • The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) used a parity rate of 3.1% to estimate the proportion of Australian students expected to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ". . .if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were represented according to their proportion of the higher education aged population" (Panel for the Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2011, p. 3).

University students

The following section provides a brief statistical profile of Indigenous student numbers, enrolment by state and completion rates from 2010 to 2012.

  • In 2011, Pechenkina, Kowal and Paradies (2011, p. 59) observed that Indigenous university commencing numbers had increased slowly since 2005, but "completions have fluctuated".
  • Students who self-identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on enrolment made up 1.0% (12,642) of all university enrolments in 2012 (1,257,722), an increase from 11,807 in 2011 of 7.0%, and 1.1% of all commencements (509,766), an increase of 8.2% (5,381) from 2011 to 5,824 (Australia. Department of Industry Innovation Climate Change Science Research and Tertiary Education, 2013b).
  • The IHER noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students experience a one in three dropout rate from university compared to one in five for all domestic students, and that overall completion rates were 22% less than for non-Indigenous (Behrendt et al., 2012, p. 87).

Year 12 students

Statistics reveal that retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to Year 12 is increasing, with a small but increasing percentage qualifying for university. In 2008, 10% of Year 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students gained a university entrance score compared to 46% of non-Indigenous (DEEWR 2008, cited in Behrendt et al., 2012, p. 6). More recent figures have been difficult to locate.

  • During the period 2002-2012, retention from Year 7/8 to Year 12 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students increased from 38% to 51.1% (compared with 76.3% to 81.3% for non-Indigenous students) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013b).
  • In 2012, the apparent retention rate from Year 7/8 to Year 12 was 52.9% for female Indigenous students and 49.2 % for male Indigenous students (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013b).
  • The rate of change is very positive and indicates movement toward the COAG Target to halve the gap in equivalent attainment rates with non-Indigenous students by 2020. However, this rate of change, "is insufficient if the COAG targets for 2020 are to be reached" (Ainley et al., 2011, pp. 41-42).

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

The following section provides a statistical profile of Indigenous student enrolment and completion rates for VET from 2010 to 2012.

  • In 2010, there were eight times as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in VET compared to those enrolled in university (Taylor, Gray, Hunter, Yap, & Lahn, 2011, p. 9).
  • In 2010, there were 8 times as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in VET compared to those enrolled in university (Taylor, Gray, Hunter, Yap, & Lahn, 2011, p. 9).
  • In 2012 Indigenous VET students numbered 89,878 or 4.6% of the total national VET student population (1,943,195) and 15.3% of the total Indigenous population.(National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2013).
  • In 2012, 6.4% of students who had completed training were studying at university (National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2013).

Apprenticeships and traineeships

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enrolments in VET in the NT accounted for 41.7% of NT enrolments in 2012. Yet, Indigenous apprenticeships in the NT account for only 6.6% of the national population of Indigenous apprenticeships in 2011 indicating lack of connection between VET and apprenticeships in the NT. NSW (32.7%) and QLD (29%) led the nation in terms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander apprenticeships in 2011 compared with their respective enrolments for VET being 5.9% (NSW) and 5.5% (QLD) in 2012, indicating the pathway through apprenticeships is less likely to lead to higher education, with these students following the pathway to direct employment.

  • Indigenous people commencing apprenticeships and traineeships numbered 12,554 in 2011, an increase of 8.1% from 2010 (12,008), and 3.9% of all 2011 commencements (318,421) (National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2012).
  • Indigenous completions in 2011 were 5,304, a growth of 9.5% from 2010 (4,683), and 2.9% of all completing apprentices and trainees (National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2012).