Truancy trial starts to get kids on track to school
The first trial of a Federal Government plan to increase school attendance in Indigenous communities is now under way.
The scheme has seen sixteen locals receive government-funded training, and will now operate as truancy officers for nearby schools in the Northern Territory.
The truancy officers will visit parents' homes if their children to not attend classes often enough, working with families to try to get students to stay in school.
The plan has been launched in the town of Gunbalanya, where the school year starts a few weeks earlier to take advantage of longer holidays in the mid-year dry season.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says officers will operate in a total of twenty communities when the scheme is in full swing.
The plan aims to increase Indigenous school attendance figures from 55 per cent to 90 per cent.
The Federal Government has the power to intervene and stop welfare payments to families whose children to not attend school, but this has reportedly not been used.
Mr Scullion says that the officers' main function is to work with families, not to try to prosecute or punish.
“The school attendance officers will not have any particular compliance powers,” he said.
“[Their role is] to assist the parents to get them to school, to remind them of their responsibility to get them to school, and to ensure that they understand that it is against the law not to send them to school.”
“We should have an expectation that everybody's child goes to school,” the Indigenous Affairs Minister said.
“[There is] no reason to have a lower expectation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”