Ninti is committed to the Closing the Gap targets, especially those addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education:

  • by 2031, increase the proportion of people (age 20-24) attaining year 12 or equivalent qualification to 96 per cent
  • by 2035, increase the proportion of children enrolled in Year Before Fulltime Schooling (YBFS) early childhood education to 95 per cent
  • by 2031, increase the proportion of children assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to 55 per cent
  • by 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (15-24 years) who are in employment, education or training to 67 per cent.

As part of this commitment, Ninti has implemented research and consultancies since 2003, including the following:

Evidence review and analysis of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), Program 1.2: Children and Schooling

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is committed to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood and education outcomes. As part of this work, the NIAA partnered with Ninti One and the Australian Council of Education Research (ACER) to undertake an evidence review and analysis project of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), Program 1.2: Children and Schooling, related to the early years and education sectors.

This project had two main aims: to determine how current NIAA funding aligns with evidence and feedback on activities, priorities and outcomes; and to find out how the NIAA’s role fits into the context of what their partner agencies (i.e. other Australian government, state and territory agencies) are doing from a policy and investment perspective.

Project completion date: September 2021.

‘Connected Beginnings’: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education

Connected Beginnings is an initiative of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE)’s Community Child Care Fund. It is a Closing the Gap measure and supports all Closing the Gap priority reforms and focuses on targets 2, 3 and 4.

The initiative aims to support Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in areas of high need to be well prepared for school, by supporting Indigenous pregnant women, and Indigenous children from birth to school age. Over time it is anticipated the program will contribute to reducing the difference in school readiness and education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

Connected Beginnings currently supports 24 sites nationally in remote, regional and urban settings. In 2021 the Australian Government committed an extra $81.8 million to expand Connected Beginnings to 50 sites nationally by 2025.

Ninti was contracted by DESE as the Community Partner to provide advice on site selection; foundational support to new sites; and ongoing support to existing sites through a ‘Community of Practice’.

Project completion date: June 2022.

‘Community Child Care Fund’: community consultations

The Community Child Care Fund Restricted grant supplements the Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy for identified services in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Ninti One conducted community consultations (qualitative research, analysis and evaluation) to assist in establishing 10 new CCCFR services in 2021-22. Ninti developed a community consultation, research and analysis plan for each location; evaluated the community’s interest in and readiness for a CCCFR service; researched and scoped potential service providers in the community, in particular local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs); analysed and determined the strength of community governance structures and the degree to which these structures would support the new service.

‘Remote Education Systems’ research

Ninti managed this 6-year research program, which added to the body of knowledge about how remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can get the best benefit from the teaching and learning in and out of schools. The project found that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities believe that the purpose of education is to learn language, country and local knowledge, and for students to become Two-Ways strong. The idea of Two-Way broadly involves language knowledge, including literacy skills of home language and English, and cultural and social knowledge pertaining to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal domains. The project engaged directly with more than 1,250 education stakeholders from across Australia and more than 1,000 people contributed to the findings. The research resulted in more than 70 peer-reviewed papers and articles and a final product, an e-book called Red Dirt Education, covering topics of an 11-part lecture series.

Vocational Education Training for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners

In collaboration with NCVER, Ninti produced a good practice guide that synthesised research data to identify how retention and completion can be improved (to improve employability) and what other indicators of success (apart from completion) are important outcomes of training in remote communities. The project contributed to furthering our understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences with VET in remote areas and explored the factors that boost engagement and retention in training and ensure that training meets the needs of these learners and their communities.

Pathways to Employment

This 6-year research used a case study approach to explore pathways between learning and livelihoods for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia. The project found that current pathway-to-employment initiatives fail to recognise the motivations and aspirations of local Aboriginal peoples; they see local strengths and assets as barriers to be overcome or, alternatively, fail to recognise them at all. It does not matter how well service providers collaborate or how well training is linked to jobs; local resident buy-in is paramount to improve employment outcomes in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Research results were disseminated widely, with the project publishing a number of journal papers, presenting at conferences and creating other end-user publications.

Review of the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust

Under contract to the Central Land Council, Ninti reviewed the $20 million investment of funds into the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust and presented its review findings to the Trust Directors. The funds for the education program originated mainly from mining royalties on Walpiri land. The findings were very well received by the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust, as a basis for providing direction to future investments.

Teaching strategies for Indigenous learners

The State of Queensland’s Department of Education and Training engaged Ninti to research ‘What constitutes effective English language instruction within the delivery of the Australian Curriculum in mainstream classrooms of Indigenous learners who speak English as an additional language or dialect?’. The research findings are being used throughout Queensland schools to provide a reliable evidence base to inform recommendations on the use of specific teaching strategies that improve academic outcomes for Indigenous learners who speak English as a second language or dialect.