First Nations Teachers Needed in Schools

Clearer career pathways needed to get them there.
Mar 20, 2024
Prospective indigenous teachers needed and pathways need to be clarified.

There needs to be more clarity and communication about possible pathways into teaching to increase the number of First Nations teachers in the Northern Territory.

The Australian teacher workforce is characterised by a distinct lack of parity between First Nations teacher numbers and non-First Nations counterparts. These teachers are often responsible for the teaching of First Nations students, but they have a different culture, different ideas about teaching and learning and there are language barriers.

Having more First Nations teachers could really help increase First Nation student engagement numbers, help to apply more First Nations educational approaches, and help create more role models in the community.

Senior Lecturer in Indigenous knowledge at A Charles Darwin University (CDU) researcher, Dr Tracy Woodroffe is conducting research to address the critical shortfall of First Nations educators in the Northern Territory, which has the highest percentage of First Nations students in Australia.

Dr Woodroffe, a Warumungu Luritja woman, has extensive experience working in early childhood, primary and secondary classrooms, is working through a project that is focused on understanding the various educational pathways on offer to First Nations students to enter teaching.

Dr Woodroffe has spoken to education lecturers, support staff, career education teachers and NT teacher registration board staff to understand the pathways available.

“There is a potential study pathway for First Nations senior secondary students to enter into teaching but unfortunately it is not clearly articulated or widely known,” Dr Woodroffe said.

“If we are going to increase the number of First Nations teachers, we need a coordinated approach to change processes and practices to improve pathways and better support First Nations students,” she said.

Dr Woodroffe has recently received a First Nations Fellowship from the Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success (ACSES) - formerly the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) - at Curtin University to continue with the project.

The next phase will focus on understanding the aspirations of First Nations high school students to become teachers, and First Nations teachers’ perspectives about teaching and how to promote teaching to other First Nations people.

This will assist the Department of Education with workforce development and assist universities to increase First Nations enrolments in teacher education.

“My study will specifically focus on promoting teaching as a career of choice for First Nations people to ultimately improve educational outcomes for First Nations students,” Dr Woodroffe said.

Dr Woodroffe will contact around 40 schools across the Territory in urban and remote locations to ask students in senior years and teachers to complete an anonymous survey.

“Through the survey I hope to learn about First Nations perceptions of teaching as a career and how to best promote teaching, in order to inspire and encourage as many First Nations people as possible to become teachers,” Dr Woodroffe said.

ACSES’s First Nations Fellowship program provides year-long fellowships for First Nations Australians working as researchers and practitioners in higher education, to complete a project that will inform an area of higher education equity practice and policy.

Image by Felix Haumann