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Education and self-identity important for Aboriginal parents

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A Curtin University study has found Aboriginal parents view education as very important for their children’s future, but also feel it is essential for children to have a strong connection to their family and community history.

The study by Associate Professor Mike Dockery and Doctor Simon Colquhoun from Curtin’s Centre for Labour Market Research, examined the link between Aboriginal culture and wellbeing.

 “The results from the survey show that Aboriginal parents believe it is vital that children have a strong connection to their culture – that they understand it, know about it, have pride in it, know who they are and where they are from,” Associate Professor Dockery said.

“It is this ‘enculturation’ that is seen to provide a source of strength and resilience for the challenges ahead.”

The study was prepared using qualitative data made available from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children and focused on 1,167 survey responses from 11 locations across Australia.
The responses from the two questions, “Apart from health and happiness, what do you want for your child?” and “What is it about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture that will help your child grow up strong?”, were evaluated using text analytics software Leximancer to reveal key themes.

Key themes to emerge from the parents’ comments relating to culture included family, knowing or learning about culture, and a sense of pride and belonging.

“Some of the common responses that emerged were that it is important for children to ‘know where they are from’ – to know about their ancestors and their connection to country, and to know their traditional languages and stories,” Associate Professor Dockery said.

Apart from health and happiness, education was the main theme that arose from parents’ comments on what they wanted for their children. 

Education related to achievement in mainstream society, a good career, money and success.  However, the parents of Aboriginal children clearly saw a tension between mainstream success and maintenance of their culture.  Tellingly, many parents simply wished for their children to have a better life than their own.

“The results suggest that it is important for Australian policy and institutions – particularly educational institutions – to recognise, accommodate and respect Indigenous culture if there is to be any improvement in the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians from that experienced by the current and previous generations,” he said.

The report was prepared by the Centre for Labour Market Research and is available online here

Associate Professor Mike Dockery, Centre for Labour Market Research
Tel: 08 9266 3468, Email:

Gracie Daniel, Public Relations Consultant
Tel: 08 9266 3353, Email:

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