In the present era of evidence-based policy making in Indigenous affairs, where the monitoring and closure of socioeconomic gaps dominates the federal agenda, data have become paramount. Yet with regard to one of the cornerstones of the Labor government’s ‘Closing the Gaps’ initiative—Indigenous education—the reliability of the evidence base has been repeatedly called into question. Further, existing educational administrative data, as they are conventionally reported, fail to elucidate some of the key structural drivers of Indigenous educational disadvantage. For example, reported enrolment and attendance data often present an incomplete picture of Indigenous engagement with the formal education sector because they are not collected or reported in ways that adequately illuminate the realities of Indigenous temporary mobility practices. Drawing upon textual analysis and interviews with relevant public servants, this paper summarises administrative data management systems in five State and Territory public education departments, as the basis for evaluating the relationship between existing data and the realities of student mobility. It argues that both enrolment and attendance collections have the potential to render these movements more visible to, and instructive for, educators and policy makers responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating the delivery of formal education programs to highly mobile Indigenous students. To this end, it canvasses a range of potential reforms. The paper concludes by calling for significant reconceptualising and adaptation from both practitioners and policy makers in order to leverage enrolment and attendance data as more meaningful evidence when evaluating Indigenous engagement with formal education systems.
ISBN: 0 7315 4972 4
ISSN: 1442 3871