Self-identity supported by positive role models can be a major boost for neglected Australians.

A new study has found high-achievers share a strong and positive sense of their own cultural identity, and could be a major factor in efforts to close the gap between Aboriginal education results and those of the rest of the community.

Researcher Lynette Riley, from the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE), made the finding following a total of 123 interviews with students, their parents, teachers and Aboriginal staff in three metropolitan and four regional schools in New South Wales.

She focused on high-achieving Aboriginal students who had been placed in the top 10 – 25 per cent in their NAPLAN year five tests.

“Research has shown that Aboriginal students are up to 36 months behind their non-Aboriginal peers in learning. We need to close this gap,” Ms Riley said.

“I found that successful students are taught by long-term teachers who are competent in their craft or are taught by competent new career teachers with greater world experience who, therefore, understand cultural difference.”

The study may be crucial information for schools, regional and state programs that support Aboriginal students.

Riley suggests it could provide guidance on effective structures within school and parent engagement programs to support improved academic outcomes for Aboriginal students.

The study will now be disseminated to regional and state education departments and organisations, in the hope of strengthening conditions to better support Aboriginal students’ academic ventures.