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Education and work

Educational attainment

Increasing the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 20–24) attaining year 12 or equivalent qualification to 96%; increasing the proportion (aged 15–24) in employment, education or training to 67%; and increasing the proportion (aged 25–34) who have completed a tertiary qualification to 70%, by 2031, are 3 of the targets in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Highest year of school completed

In 2018–19, the highest year of school completed by Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over was:

  • Year 12 for 34% of people
  • Year 10 or 11 for 44% of people
  • Year 9 or below for 23% of people (Figure EW 8).
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Year 12 or equivalent attainment

Year 12 or equivalent attainment is one of the education targets in the National Closing the Gap targets. The ABS Census is the primary data source for measuring this target.

The measure for the Year 12 or equivalent attainment target is the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 who have completed at least:

  • a Year 12 or equivalent school qualification, and/or
  • an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate level III or above.

In 2016, among Indigenous Australians aged 20–24:

  • 63% had completed Year 12 or equivalent qualifications.
  • The highest proportion of Year 12 or equivalent attainment was among those living in the Australian Capital Territory (77%) and the lowest among those living in the Northern Territory (38%) (Figure EW 9).
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Highest post-school qualification

Post-school qualifications include educational qualifications above Certificate III level. This level of attainment is one of the closing the gap education targets for Indigenous Australians aged 25–34. The ABS Census is the primary data source for measuring this target.

The measure for this target is the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 25–34 whose highest level of educational attainment is Certificate level III or above, based on the AQF.

In 2016, among Indigenous Australians aged 25–34:

  • 42% had a Certificate level III or above attainment.
  • Those living in the Australian Capital Territory (62%) had the highest proportion of Certificate level III or above attainment, and those living in the Northern Territory (18%) had the lowest (Figure EW 10).
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In 2018–19, among Indigenous Australians aged 20–64:

  • 37% (150,935) held a post-school qualification of Certificate III level to Advanced diploma qualification.
  • 8% (32,812) held a Bachelor degree or above qualification.
  • 45% (183,481) held a post-school qualification of Certificate III or above (Figure EW 11).  
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In 2018–19, of the Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over who held a post-school qualification above Certificate level III, who stated their field of study, the most common fields were:

  • society and culture (23% or 44,600)
  • management and commerce (21% or 41,100)
  • engineering and related technologies (13% or 24,900)
  • health (11% or 20,900)
  • architecture and building (9% or 17,300) (Figure EW 12).

The most common field of study for Indigenous males was engineering and related technologies (25% or 22,600). For females, the most common field was society and culture (28% or 29,600) (Figure EW 12).

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The rate at which Indigenous students aged 25–64 commenced higher education increased from 148 per 10,000 in 2001 to 170 per 10,000 in 2018 (Figure EW 13).

The rate at which Indigenous Australians aged 25–64 completed higher education courses rose from 38 per 10,000 in 2001 to 67 per 10,000 in 2018 (Figure EW 13).

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