A leading industry organisation has called for an Indigenous education minister and peak body in the next government ahead of the Federal election this month.

Aurora Education Foundation chief executive Leila Smith said a bipartisan commitment to education reform and Indigenous leadership was key to improving First Nations education.

Ms Smith said a lack of platform in parliament limited the ability of effective reform and policy to take shape.

“Important discussions about the role of education in building Indigenous leadership are absent from the campaign trail,” she said.

“They’re absent from federal reviews, committees and commissions.

“We need to think of cultural strength, Indigenous education outcomes, and Indigenous sector leadership as one vision, valued by all Australians.”

Ms Smith said the swelling ranks of Indigenous leaders in the public and private sector, was promising, but frustration remained over a lack of leadership in education.

“It’s like everyone is agreed on the endpoint, but we have not yet addressed the role of education in getting us to that endpoint,” she said.

“There is no recognition of the systemic and structural barriers that are preventing indigenous people from leadership opportunities in the education space.

Leila Smith said the impact of a Minister for Indigenous education “could be enormous”.
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“There is no recognition of how to build a pipeline of Indigenous leadership through education.”

Ms Smith said the current education system was incapable of catering for the needs of certain students.

She pointed to Aurora’s success, where high school completion rates, ATAR results and the number of students transitioning to university have drastically improved among participants in the last 10 years.

“We know that people are taking up more educational opportunities than ever before, but how is that translating to indigenous leadership at the highest level,” she said.

“It’s like there is a piece of the puzzle missing.

“And we need to elevate this on the national agenda, or we are missing an incredible opportunity right now.”

Ms Smith said little funding, timing and political risk was at stake for what could make an enormous impact, and conversations must move on to the incoming government as a prime catalyst for making this happen.