When schoolteacher April drives past one of the local private schools in Alice Springs, what sticks out are the green, manicured lawns. When she looks out of the window at one of the public secondary schools where she teaches, she sees a brown, weed-choked oval.
“It’s like a metaphor for public education in this town,” says April, who has asked that her real name not be published. “It’s parched, it’s neglected.”
In the decade since the Gonski review into the funding of Australia’s education system, state government funding to public schools in the Northern Territory – where 39% of the student population is Indigenous – has fallen by 7.75% in real terms. In Western Australia, it has fallen by 5.6%.
“It doesn’t reflect the area of need,” says Tracy Woodroffe, a Warumungu Luritja woman and an education expert at Charles Darwin University.
“If we’re having standardised assessment, which is what Naplan is, that reports students in more remote areas are performing less [well] than students in urban areas … where is the accountability in catering, then, for students who have the most need?”
“Education is a right, so surely students are entitled to the best education that we can provide for them, and not just because they have enough money to pay for it.”
April is at pains to stress that the town’s public schools offer…