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Indigenous boarding gets lukewarm reception

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 31 October 2004

A Northern Territory Indigenous leader says suggestions that Aboriginal high school students be sent out of their communities to boarding schools in cities is a band-aid solution.

Queensland Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson suggested the idea to address chronic academic under-achievement on Cape York, where only 6 per cent of students stay on to year 12.

ATSIC council chair for the Darwin region Kimberley Hunter says the proposal could improve educational outcomes, but he would rather see improved results through better cooperation between educators and communities.

"I think that's the most important thing, actually having the community linked to the school and having major community involvement with our school and our education system," he said.

"It may be an immediate remedy, sending some of our kids away to get away from some of the problems in their communities, but the reality is that we need to get the community on side before we start getting some good results."

A leading Indigenous academic, Professor Bonnie Robertson from Queensland's Griffith University, has also criticised the proposal, likening it to a Stolen Generation situation.

"Here we are actually going back into a process where we took away parents' rights," Professor Robertson said.

"We took children away and put them in a process that really, ironically, has contributed to a process where Noel is saying let's take the children away again.

"So you would have thought that Noel and other people in his position would have learnt from the past."

Western Australian Aboriginal leader Mick Dodson says education standards and services must be improved, but personal experience shows that removing Aboriginal children from community may not be the answer for everybody.

"I was at a school reunion last week of my old school, it was a boarding school and there were quite a few Aboriginal kids there from up north, but they're doing it hard," Dr Dodson said.

"They find it very difficult.

"I managed to sit down and talk to them and the thing they missed most is mixing with their culture and their people and that's a big thing to ask kids to give up."

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