Giving Voice to First Nations Young People Disengaged from Education in the Northern Territory with a Specific Focus on Barriers to Education and their Aspirations for the Future

  • Lyndal Jane Walker None




This paper discusses some of the findings of a phenomenological study completed in 2015, which focused on finding out the perceptions about secondary school from disengaged Indigenous youth from a community less than 20km from Darwin in the Northern Territory. The study was informed by aspects of the transformative paradigm and CRT as social transformation for this cohort was a driving motivation for the researcher and there was also a desire to challenge the ‘norms’ in the mainstream education system for these Indigenous young people.


Ten young people (five male and five female), aged between 15 and 25 who had varying lengths of time at secondary schools but were not engaged in the education system at the time, were interviewed. This paper focuses primarily on what they perceived as barriers that prevented them from engaging in education and their aspirations for the future.


Family and community life, relational issues at school, their own feelings, drugs and alcohol and exclusion were barriers to engagement. Their future aspirations included employment within their home community and wanting to re-engage with education but not knowing how to was an issue.


There are implications both at a school and policy level. Schools need to take heed of the cultural and family issues of Indigenous young people ensuring adequate training of staff and where possible, increasing Indigenous staff. Cross-cultural training and training to strengthen staffs’ relationships with students is necessary, with specific efforts to engage communities and families. In addition, place-based alternatives for educational pathways need to be explored.