To design policies that maximise the chances that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) students will attend school on a given day, it is important to have a detailed understanding of how Indigenous students make the decision about whether to attend. In this paper, I analyse four data sets to shed light on the attendance decisions of Indigenous students: the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). I look at three aspects of the school decision: the relationship between past attendance and current academic outcomes, differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in patterns of attendance, and Indigenous-specific determinants of school attendance. The results of the analysis show that, although there is strong evidence for the policy focus on school attendance, the current policy framework may be missing many of the factors that are driving actual behaviour. In the concluding section of the paper, I discuss the importance of the findings for the development of a behavioural model for school attendance, as well as some further research needed to extend our understanding. I also discuss some initial policy implications, with a particular focus on the strengths and weaknesses of alternative policies.
ISSN: 1442 3871