Degree Name

Master of Education - Research


Faculty of Education


Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs) were first introduced to Australian schools in 1974 basically as a feel-good Social Justice response to the 1967 Referendum.

What AEWs do is largely a mystery to all but those who are closely involved with them. Whether or how much they contribute to improving Aboriginal educational outcomes, until the writing of this thesis, was also a mystery. What is most puzzling is the fact that their effectiveness has never been tested. There is no other job I am aware of that would not have had the effectiveness of its workers tested in some way over a period of thirty-seven years.

The aim of this research project was to gather perceptions and insights into the effectiveness of AEWs from those involved most closely with them: students, parents, principals, teachers and educationalists. To achieve this aim, the study used a mixed-method research design utilising a survey instrument with ten quantitative Likert-scale questions and five qualitative questions. Survey feedback from all survey respondents indicated strongly from their viewpoint and involvement with AEWs, that they make a significant contribution to improving Aboriginal educational outcomes, particularly in the areas of student wellbeing and community engagement. Amongst the respondents, fifteen to twenty-five per cent were undecided on how, or whether AEWs contribute to the attendance, retention and completion of Aboriginal students, or whether their removal would affect the outcomes. This reinforces the theory of the mystery, to a significant number of people, of what AEWs do.