Australian Education Minister Julia Gillard on Monday announced a new multi-million dollar federal government program to improve indigenous education.
The government will provide 16.4 million Australian dollars (14 million U.S. dollars) to the Stronger Smarter Learning Communities project, which helps school leaders improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Gillard, who was in Brisbane to announce the funding injection at the Stronger Smarter Summit, said it was time for indigenous students to move to the front of the classroom.
“For too long the nation has succumbed to a sense that there’s something inevitable about indigenous kids ending up at the back of the class,” she told reporters.
“We want to break away from those negative mindsets.”
Schools identified as under performing through the government’s National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests will be forced to improve.
Gillard said they would be required to develop strategies and take action in the areas of attendance, quality of teaching and school leadership, literacy and numeracy, and parental and community engagement.
However, if indigenous families do not send their children to school they could be hit with welfare sanctions in a new trial that is about to roll out.
“There will be some places in this country where there is persistent non-attendance at school – the ultimate sanction is income management,” she said