Abstract: In Australia, the ‘remote education system’ presents itself as a simple system where the right inputs, such as quality teachers and leaders will engender the outputs that have been set by the system, such as certain levels of English literacy and numeracy. The system has measures in place, including national testing, to report on its success. For the most part, this system seems to be working quite well. However, this modelling breaks down when the education system of remote Australia is presented. This remote system is presented in much of the literature and in the press, as disadvantaged, under-resourced and underperforming. Reported results indicate that current activities are not bringing the desired outcomes. The so-called mainstream system makes adjustments using its model of input to output, but without success. There is a clear need for change. Just what this change might look like is the focus of this article. Theorising in this space is considered from two positions; the first being the published work of a number of Indigenous Australian educators and leaders writing in this space; the second, a consideration of western theorising using complex adaptive systems. Throughout the article, a metaphor of ‘red dirt thinking’ is applied as a mechanism to ground the thinking in the lives and lands of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of remote Australia.