Customised approaches to vocational education can dramatically improve completion rates of Australian Aboriginal students

Kylie Gwynne, Jorge Rojas, Monique Hines, Kim Bulkeley, Michelle Irving, Debbie McCowen, Michelle Lincoln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Completion rates in vocational education are typically poor for Aboriginal students (<30%). A scholarship program was designed for Australian Aboriginal students using five enablers of success previously identified for Aboriginal preregistration tertiary nursing students. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the five enablers contributed to the success of Aboriginal students in vocational education and whether there were any other enablers. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with two groups of Aboriginal students in Certificate III and IV Dental Assisting and Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance, and their teaching and support staff. The data were initially coded inductively. Initial codes were then categorised according to the five enablers identified to contribute to the success of Bachelor of Nursing students. New categories were created for data not assigned to the enablers. Results: Twenty students (64.5% of the cohort) and six staff (75%) consented to participate. The five enablers were perceived to have contributed to the success of the scholarship recipients and two additional enablers were identified. A completion rate of 96.8% was achieved by the scholarship recipients (30 completions of 31 enrolments). Conclusions: In contrast with the state average, a completion rate of 96.8% was achieved using seven enablers in this study. To improve completion rates for Aboriginal students, vocational education programs need to be customised to cultural, family and community context. The seven enablers in this study should be subject to a larger study to inform policy, funding, design and delivery of vocational training for Aboriginal students. What is known about the topic?: It is well established in the literature that Aboriginal students have poorer educational outcomes than other students. What does this paper add?: This paper validates five previously identified enablers to improve outcomes for Aboriginal students and an additional two for vocational education. These enablers may also be applicable to other types of education. What are the implications for practitioners?: Practitioners can use the enablers in this study to design and implement vocational education programs and improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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