Parent-school engagement: Exploring the concept of 'invisible' Indigenous parents in three North Australian school communities

Richard Chenhall, Catherine Holmes, Tess Lea, Kate Senior, Agathe Wegner

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This report explores school-parent engagement in three town-based schools in the Northern Territory of Australia. Undertaken over a three year period between 2008 and 2010, the research team worked in partnership with The Smith Family and participating schools—Karama Primary School in Darwin; Moulden Park Primary School in Palmerston; and MacFarlane Primary School in Katherine—to explore what parents have to say about the schools that their Indigenous children attend and about education more broadly. The research applied an exploratory case study approach using a mix of ethnographic and interview techniques. We observed children, parents and school environments; interviewed parents, teachers, policy personnel and school based staff; and conducted focus group sessions with key stakeholders. In-depth interviews were conducted with 48 parents and/or carers, 9 policy officers and 26 educators. The questions we asked all participants in this study probed three key questions: What does engagement mean? Why is it important? How is it achieved? The key message from this research is that to improve outcomes for Indigenous students, schools and policy makers need to consider a re-focus of their engagement efforts on one aspect more intensely: namely, how to help parents invest in the cognitive and emotional development of their children toward academic attainment. It is clear that the schools in our study are doing an extraordinary job with stretched resources to meet the challenges of educating socially disadvantaged young people. It is clear that engagement has a place in improved outcomes, but more focused methods for encouraging parental responsibility and involvement in all aspects of their children's education are required.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDarwin, Australia
PublisherCharles Darwin University
ISBN (Print)978-1-921576-48-5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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