This interpretive study explores the relationship between spatial qualities and school-parent engagement in three primary schools which serve low income periurban Indigenous families in north Australia. Drawing from interviews with educators and parents, school-based observations and community fieldwork conducted over the course of two years in two different towns, we found that educators are very concerned that schools, as western institutions, present cultural and physical barriers to effective engagement; but that this view is not shared by Indigenous parents. Rather than seeing this as a simple issue of cultural difference, our analysis seeks to unravel the curious way in which the otherness of school space is acknowledged in educator discourse. Only some place features of school are suggested as a barrier by educators while other aspects - such as the clear identification of insiders and outsiders through school routines and locales - remain unremarked. We conclude by suggesting that schools are inherently exclusionary, a foundational fact which both parents and educators accept and respond to, in ways which both explain the push for engagement within education policy and its irrelevance as a concern for parents.