Lynette Riley

Date of Submission



Despite a willingness by stakeholders to address Aboriginal education disadvantage and recent successes in outcomes, Australian education largely continues to fail to provide Aboriginal Australians with educational outcomes and life opportunities commensurate with those of their non-Aboriginal peers. Well-intentioned and widely presumed assumptions about what works to seed success for Aboriginal students seem to prevail and are often unquestionably accepted and implemented as making a real difference in the absence of tangible proof and systemic results. Whilst a diversity of interventions have been implemented they are small-scale in nature, have not been rigorously tested, often rely on a deficit model as opposed to what works for successful students, and have not resulted in fuelling systemic change. Lack of reliable data is impeding progress in addressing the educational disadvantage that Aboriginal children suffer and the development of new solutions for interventions aimed at enhancing the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. Theory, research, and practice are all inextricably intertwined; neglect in any one area will undermine the others. The overarching purpose of this research was to determine what conditions surround Aboriginal students in achieving sound academic outcomes, using information gleaned from the NSW Aboriginal Education Review (AER, 2004) to determine a theoretical model of the conditions of success for Aboriginal students (also see Craven, 2006). The research aims to gain information from those students most affected by educational outcomes and the least engaged in research. This research in focusing on Aboriginal students who have been placed in the top 10%–25% as evidenced in their NAPLAN Year 5 tests, has taken a qualitative approach across seven primary schools in the NSW public education system: three Metropolitan and four Regional schools. The research was carried out with N=34 Aboriginal students, using in-depth interview techniques through use of individual brainstorm focus session and photography to elicit Aboriginal students’ perspectives as to the conditions they believed most supported their achieving sound academic outcomes. This was further strengthened by in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in students’ achieving academic success: their parents; teachers the student had in Years 3, 4 and 5; principals and Aboriginal staff in the selected schools. The findings in this research whilst supporting much of the theorised determinants provide valuable insights and practical recommendations specifically in the practice of teaching Aboriginal students and in provision of support which may assist in raising academic outcomes for all Aboriginal students.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


391 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Health Sciences


Research Location