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Education Reform for First Nations

Support us to establish a First Nations-led education system in Australia.  

Sign our petition and join more than more than 80,000 people walking with us as we lobby the Federal Government and advocate for national education reform for First Nations people.

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On 28 February 2024 we are launching The M.K. Turner Report at Parliament House, Canberra.  

We’re presenting the Federal Government with a roadmap for education reform. This roadmap has been developed by over 60 First Nations educators from the Utyerre Apanpe (First Nations Educator Network) (oo-cherra a-parn-pa), supported by strong evidence and the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People.  

When we arrive in Canberra next month, we need to show the Federal Government that we have your support!

Everyone is always saying that we need to make our kids ready for school, but why can’t we make schools ready for our children? M.K. Turner OAM Arrernte Elder, cultural professor, translator, linguist, artist, author and human rights champion.

Our Education, Our Way

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are failing in mainstream education in Australia – either because they cannot access education or because the education that is offered sets them up to fail.  

Evidence points to the fact that children learn better, and show improved academic achievement, when they are learning in their First Language and Culture, and when their learning process reflects their identity and worldview.  

“When taught first in their own languages, children learn better, are more self confident and transfer their literacy and numeracy skills to additional languages.  Children who start formal education in a second or foreign language are much more likely to experience frustration and failure, resulting in higher dropout rates for these children” – ‘Why language matters for the Millennium Development Goals’, UNESCO, 2018

The M.K. Turner Report offers a plan for First Nations-led and designed education reform in Australia.  

Download the M.K. Turner Report

With the participation of more than 60 First Nations educators, the Report is a response to the biases in Australia’s education system and the persistent calls from First Nations Elders for recognition of First Nations learning systems that have been successfully practiced in Australia for millennia.

The M.K. Turner Report

The M.K. Turner Report provides a roadmap for embracing Apmerengentyele (Ap-mer- ung-n-jel-a) – a First Nations world view. It is an argument for a significant reform of the Australian education system to recognise and resource Apmerengentyele, with the goal of Apmerengentyele becoming an accessible and widespread education system of choice for First Nations communities across the country.  

The Report also directly aligns with Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. Article 14 states:   

  • Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.  
  • States shall, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for Indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language. 

The M.K. Turner Report offers six recommendations and outcomes for First Nations-led and designed education reform in Australia:   

  1. Australian governments commit to the establishment of a new First Nations education system.   
  2. Government recognises and partners with an independent national First Nations governance body to develop and oversight the new First Nations education system.   
  3. Australian governments support the teaching of First Nations languages in the new system, through a new national Language of Instruction (LoI) policy.   
  4. Establish a comprehensive national network of First Nations Language and Literacy Centres for every Nation/ language group.   
  5. Develop and support a First Nations education workforce.   
  6. Establish the M.K. Turner Institute as a national centre for First Nations knowledge, practice, research and evaluation in the new First Nations education system.   

Additionally, the Report positions Utyerre Apanpe as a peak group for First Nations education who state/territory and federal governments can work with to develop a framework and guidelines for First Cultural Educators, covering standards, expertise, development, training and practice.   

In 2019, a national network of First Nations educators known as Utyerre Apanpe was established to advocate for a national strategy to improve the education outcomes of First Nations children. The network is led by Elders and made up of over 50 First Nations educators from over 15 Nations across Australia. Their vision is to share knowledge and establish and maintain a First Nations Education System designed and delivered by First Nations people to ensure the highest quality of education for First Nations children. 

“Our curriculum needs to be determined by us. We want to build on the great work of our educators who have developed First Nations curriculum in communities and in the departments.”

“We want to set standards for our own communities and for mainstream education. We want to protect our knowledge systems and laws.”

“Education is healing. It is a place that we want our children to feel valued, loved and safe in their spirit. Where their knowledge will grow.”

Utyerre Apanpe First Nations Education Forum Statement 2019

Who is M.K. Turner?

M.K. was a visionary. She was one of the most prominent leaders of the Arrernte Nation. 

Dr M.K. Turner OAM was an Arrernte Elder, cultural professor, translator, linguist, artist, author and human rights champion. She was a strict law woman who never sought power but held power. 

She was involved in the development and leadership of Aboriginal organisations across Central Australia. Her passion was the preservation of language and culture. She had over forty years of experience as an interpreter and educator. 

In 1996, M.K. received an Order of Australia for her service to the Aboriginal community of Central Australia. She was recognised by Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in 2022 with the bestowal of an Honorary Doctorate. 

She was constantly worried about the loss of culture through the loss of language and promoted standards of excellence and integrity. She was passionate about ensuring First Language and First Cultural education was revitalised and dedicated her life to ensuring this was re-established as a right for future generations. 

M.K. passed away two weeks before the launch of her report. 

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