A person’s educational qualifications can influence their health status and health outcomes. Higher levels of education can lead to:
- greater health literacy (a person’s ability to find, understand, and apply health information), which can have a direct impact on a person’s health,
- better prospects for employment and income, which can help people access good quality housing, healthy food, and health care services.
Health also influences education. Poor health through life, and health conditions like vision and hearing impairment, especially in childhood, can disrupt a person’s schooling and affect their ability to learn (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2020).
The importance of education is also reflected in 4 Closing the Gap targets: increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to 55 per cent by 2031 (Target 4); increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (age 20-24) attaining year 12 or equivalent qualification to 96 per cent by 2031 (Target 5); increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 years who have completed a tertiary qualification (Certificate III and above) to 70 per cent by 2031 (Target 6); and increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (15-24 years) who are in employment, education or training to 67 per cent by 2031 (Target 7). See Targets 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the Closing the Gap Information Repository.
Over the past decade from 2012 to 2021:
- the proportion of Indigenous school students in Year 5 who were at or above the national minimum standards increased for numeracy (13%) and spelling (9.9%). Likewise, the proportion of Indigenous students at or above the national minimum standards increased for Year 7 in spelling (5.7%) and Year 3 in reading (11%).
- the proportion of Indigenous students staying in school from the first year of secondary school (Year 7 in most states and territories, and Year 8 in South Australia) to Year 12 increased by 7.9 percentage points to 59%.
Between 2011 and 2021, rates of highest education or training level completed have also improved significantly.
- The proportion of Indigenous young adults aged 20–24 who had completed Year 12 qualification or equivalent, or attained a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above increased from 52% to 68%.
- The proportion of Indigenous adults aged 20–64 who had either completed a non-school qualification at Certificate III or above or were studying for a non-school qualification at any level increased from 35% to 48%, mainly due to increased attainment of certificate III or advanced diploma qualifications.
- The proportion of Indigenous adults aged 20–64 whose highest educational qualification was a certificate III or advanced diploma increased from 24% to 34%.
- The proportion of Indigenous adults aged 20–64 whose highest educational qualification was a Bachelor Degree or above increased from 6.6% to 9.8% (Figure 5.2).
Figure 5.2: Attainment of post-school qualifications among Australians aged 20–64, by Indigenous status, 2011 to 2021 (per cent of population)
Educational attainment among Indigenous Australians was highest in Major cities. In the 2021 Census, among Indigenous Australians:
- The proportion aged 20–24 with a Year 12 or a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above was 76% (23,400 people) in Major cities, compared with 42% (2,500) in Very remote areas.
- The proportion aged 20–64 who had completed a Certificate III to Advanced diploma was 37% (60,800 people) in Major cities, compared with 16% (6,100) in Very remote areas.
- The proportion aged 20–64 who had completed a Bachelor Degree or above was 14% (22,800) in Major cities, compared with 2.2% (830) in Very remote areas.
Educational achievement for all students decreases with increasing remoteness, and this disparity is more significant for Indigenous than non-Indigenous students.
For further information, see: