Indigenous Students

As a group, Indigenous students face significant barriers to educational achievement. In order to overcome these barriers many Indigenous parents are enrolling their children in Independent schools.

Indigenous student enrolments are spread broadly across the sector. In 2021 there were 16,662 Indigenous students enrolled in 956 Independent schools. 81 per cent of Independent schools in Australia enrolled Indigenous students in 2021.

Growth rates of Indigenous students in Independent sector 2012 – 2021

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Enrolments of Indigenous students in Independent schools have grown at an average annual rate of almost six per cent per year over the last two decades.

There are some Independent schools that provide education to significant populations of Indigenous students, and some Independent schools are entirely Indigenous. A significant number of these schools are located in rural or remote areas.

It is often the case that Independent schools in remote Indigenous communities are the sole providers of education for these communities; 43 schools in the Independent sector have an Indigenous enrolment of more than 50 per cent.

Many Independent schools are involved in community based programs to provide scholarships to Indigenous students.

Other Independent schools, such as urban and regional boarding schools, also have large numbers of Indigenous students. Many Independent boarding schools provide scholarships to support access to education for Indigenous students or are involved in community based programs to provide scholarships to these students.


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Independent schools are Australia’s largest provider of boarding schools for Indigenous students.

Indigenous students in rural and remote areas

Independent schools that serve significant or solely Indigenous student populations often have very limited capacity to raise private income through fees and fundraising; in many cases this ability is non-existent. These schools rely heavily on government assistance to maintain their operations.

The majority of these schools face high costs in employment; provision of staff housing; transport; construction; maintenance; and accessing professional, student learning and cultural opportunities, due to their remoteness or distance from large population centres.

Schools frequently need to provide many additional educational, health, recreational, wellbeing and pastoral care services in order to assist students to learn successfully.

Funding for Indigenous Students

Under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) model school funding for Indigenous students comprises of two components.

  • The ‘per student’ component is based on the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) which aims to measure the cost of effective and efficient provision of schooling. Majority Indigenous schools and remote ‘sole provider’ schools are exempt from the ‘capacity to contribute’ requirement and are entitlement to the full base amount per student.
  • Every Indigenous student in every school also attracts a loading. The loading starts at 20 per cent of the per student amount of the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student in a school, increasing up to 120 per cent for school with 100 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

As schools are currently transitioning to the SRS funding model, many will not receive their full entitlement under the loadings until the model is fully implemented. Until then the majority of Independent schools are not yet receiving their full funding entitlement.

In the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government provided $16.6 million to assist boarding providers with a high proportion of Indigenous students to remain financially sustainable during the COVID-19 recovery period.

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