Transcript: Experiences and effects of racism in school: The quantitative evidence

AIFS Seminar: Experiences and effects of racism in school: The quantitative evidence - Wednesday 9 April 2014

Audio transcript (edited)

The following audio presentation is brought to you by the Australian Institute of Family Studies as part of our monthly seminar series in which we showcase national and international research related to the family. The seminars are designed to promote a forum for discussion and debate. They are open to the public and free of charge.

Seminar facilitated & speaker introduced by Dr Jennifer Baxter

Dr Naomi Priest

Thanks Jenny, it's fantastic to be here and yes Jenny, I felt that was very generous saying several years ago when we met at New Investigators Network. It is my great pleasure to be here with Nick and yes with Jenny and with Alan as well and there's some familiar faces in the audience so thank you for coming. I'd like to add my acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land that we're on today and pay my respect to Elders past and present as well. So racism in schools is a very topical issue, if you've been watching the media lately I think nearly every day we see an article in the media about racism, about what it is, what it isn't, about how much is there in Australia and how we should or shouldn't be protecting people against racism. So obviously there's a lot of contextual factors around the issue of racism but we're going to focus specifically about racism in schools and on some of the data that Nick and I have been working on in with colleagues around the experiences of students here in Australian schools.

But I just wanted to take a moment first by talking about what is and isn't racism in terms of the conceptual definitions that we're using in our work. So as I've just said alarmingly racism appears to be worsening both in Australia as you've seen in the reports coming out from anti-marketers social cohesion surveys, they're finding increasing reports of experiences of racism from people from non English speaking backgrounds and internationally as well. So yes, (indistinct) study that's just come out found 41 per cent of non-English speaking background immigrants who arrived between 2000 and 2010 were reporting experiences of racism. So within that wider context of increasing racism in Australia, schools can be a real microcosm of society where those intercultural tensions and racism often occur, those young people are negotiating those intercultural tensions that they're seeing within the wider environment. And people like Fethi Mansouri and others have talked about how schools can be a real - very important setting of socialisation in which race and racism can be normalised and often racist behaviours and attitudes as well can either be countered or perpetuated.

So what is racism? We could probably have a whole two-hour discussion just on that today but this is the definition that we use in our work. So it really focuses on an inequitable distribution of opportunity of benefit or resources across ethnic and racial groups. And a key point here is that it occurs through avoidable and unfair actions, there are always going to be differences between different groups of people but it's when those are resulting from unfair and avoidable actions. And it can be expressed in a range of different ways, and this feeds directly into the debate over the RDA at the moment but it can be about attitudes, about beliefs, behaviours and norms and practices and it can be intentional or unintentional and that's a really important factor to think about particularly in relation to just children and young people. And of course it's only one manifestation of a broader phenomenon of oppression and we're going to be talking about racism today, but there's a lot of discussion too around how do we think about racism within the context of other forms of oppression and imperfectionalities and I'm happy to talk to anyone who's interested about that later.

It's also important to think about racism within the context of both prejudice and power. So whenever there's oppression there is one group that's been marginalised, they're oppressed, but there's also another group that's being privileged and that's very important to recognise both conceptually and also when we're thinking about addressing racism is that when you're trying to counter prejudice and prevent racism there is another group that is being privileged and that is often why we get so much resistance when we're talking about addressing racism and promoting diversity because you're challenging another group's privilege, whether it's recognised or not by that group.

So here are some examples. We talk about racism across three main levels. You can see in the middle is the one that most people will think about when they think about racism, so racism that's operating at interpersonal levels. So a verbal comment, a form of abuse, as you can see here the examples, someone racially abusing another person when they're walking along or driving in the street. It's also important to recognise more systemic forms of racism, so that's where particular groups in society are oppressed or they are not given the same opportunities as another one through the conditions, the practices, the policies and processes present within a particular organisation, within an institution or just the systems and the culture I guess that's how the society operates. So for example here young indigenous Victorians are two to three more times likely to be arrested or charged with an offence because of systemic injustices within the criminal justice system for example.

The third one which is increasingly getting attention within certainly the racism and health literature but still a lot more work to be done is where the minority group themselves takes on the beliefs about their own group that are held by the majority. So they take on the view that they might be inferior or not able to perform and we often see that within the education system, people from a minority group are really, I can't do that because I'm indigenous or because I'm a migrant or African-American. And there's some work coming out now that shows that students - some work being done in the States where minority young people will actually - who have high levels of internalised racism have poor (indistinct) outcomes so it's equally as harmful on their outcomes.

So this is s study that's been done here in Australia actually by a market research company interestingly enough asking people what is racist and I just want to -- I won't go into this in too much detail because I want to get into our data. But just to show you that there's a huge continuum about where people are saying something is or isn't racist. So you can see on the right there, people are very clear out in the community that someone missing out on a job because of their ethnic background, someone being assaulted, that's very clearly racist or discriminatory, and usually people will say something that causes harm or unjust treatment yes absolutely that's racism. But if you go to the middle, people are a bit confused or they're undecided about what is and isn't racism.

So is asking a colleague to speak on behalf of their whole culture, is that racism or not, people aren't quite sure. Or is ringing a bank) to complain that the call centre is staffed by Indian people and not able to understand, is that racism or is that not. And then further to the left most people in the community will say invoking a positive stereotype about an ethnic group no that's not racist. But we actually know that that whole spectrum of different sort of scenarios out there can all be harmful and in some situations can be considered expressions of prejudice or invoking unhelpful stereotypes that then can perpetuate inequalities. I just want to put that up there just to kind of get you thinking really around the complexity of even the issue which I'm sure many of you are thinking about in terms of why you're even here today to engage with this talk.

When we talk about exposure to racism obviously there's a whole range of different factors that we need to consider, what's the timing of that exposure, was it in utero, infancy, childhood, at what period of development. What's the intensity of that experience and how does that relate to the induced cognitive or allostatic load on the psychological or the physiological system, how frequent was it, and also what was the duration of that experience. And also what was the characteristic of that racism, what form did it take, was it overt, was it covert, at what level, how was it expressed, in what setting and who were the perpetrators. Quite complex to think about in terms of how do we then think about how does all of that gamut of experiences then influence a school student and their outcomes.

So I want to move now a bit more into thinking about how racism does affect children and young people. We know from the theoretical and the emerging empirical literature that children and young people are particularly vulnerable to racism's harmful effects through a range of different pathways that can be both direct experience of racism that they experience themselves as well as vicarious experiences in which they either witness racism or a caregiver or a close family member experiences racism which they may or may not witness. It's recognised as important but as yet quite under researched. And of course the effects of racism on children and young people can be influenced by a huge range of different factors. So the child's cognitive and social and emotional development, the other family members' experience of racism, what are the parental attitudes, so the ethnic racial socialisation and how parents are equipped or not equipped to support their children to negotiate those experiences. And then of course neighbourhood and community and societal factors, so the level of diversity within the community that the child is in, the level of discrimination within the wider community, the other support systems that they are able to access.

So these are some of the hypothesised pathways by which racism can affect your health. So looking back to our first definition, in that critical and review factors to the societal resources required for health and Nick will talk about some of this in relation to education in his talk. And in relation to children and young people this may affect the child accessing some of these factors but it can also influence their parents accessing them so that it can be a dual I guess it's lack of access to resources needed for health. Racism is a stressor, so stress and negative emotional and cognitive reactions as we know have many negative impacts on mental health as well as affecting immune endocrine functions, and increasingly people are thinking that a lot of the chronic disease inequalities we're seeing in the Aboriginal communities and in other minority groups could be related to some experiences of racism as a stressor. Then internalisation of stigma and racist beliefs about yourself leading to poor self worth and poor self-esteem, that's one of the hypothesised pathways in terms of poor educational outcomes particularly.

And then on the other hand there's a lot of work coming out now around fear of racism and even if it's not - so this increased vigilance and anticipated anxiety when people are going into situations including going to school, "Am I going to experience this today" and that either resulting in avoidant behaviour of not actually going into that setting or having an increased stress response and obviously impaired interpersonal reactions. Particularly among young people increased smoking, alcohol and drug use as well as those non-adaptive responses to racism when it happens, disengagement from healthy activities and of course a racially motivated assault is particularly harmful to somebody's health.

So really quickly before I go into the data that we've collected here in Victoria, this is a systematic review that colleagues and I just published and you can see within that huge theoretical concept around racism and child health - well when we did the review there were only 121 studies internationally empirically quantitatively looking at the effects of racism and child and youth health and most of which showing negative associations between racism and negative mental health as well as you can see there positive mental health, behaviour problems, wellbeing, interestingly pregnancy and birth outcomes also highly significant. So you see there's really an emerging area of work, which is why - and I will come to this at the end and I'm sure we will talk about it in questions - AIFS and Nick and I are pursuing some grant opportunities to pursue this work but also a critically important area for our children and young people.

So student reports of racism at school in Australia, what do we actually know. Not very much unfortunately. But what we do know and these are some of the three key studies from children who are reporting experiences of racism themselves here in Australia. So I'll start at the bottom first, so this is one that came out through the Foundation of Young Australians a couple of years ago and they surveyed students across 18 Australian secondary school students. In that study 80 per cent of the non-Anglo students were reporting that they had experienced racism during their lifetime and over two-thirds of those experiences had happened at school. Another smaller study that I was involved with through the Education Department here, students reported whether racism was a problem at their school, about 65 - nearly 65 per cent generally agreed or agreed that that was the case. And then the study that I'm going to be talking about now in more detail, 22 per cent of students reported direct experiences of racism every day at school and nearly half of them that they had witnessed or that they were aware that other students were experiencing racism on a daily basis. So quite high prevalence rates.

So this study is part of the Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity project which was a local government initiative where local governments here in Victoria were funded by a consortium of organisations to implement local government strategies across multiple settings to promote diversity and address racism. And I was involved in the evaluation of that rather than the implementation of the intervention particularly around evaluating what was happening within schools within that wider program. So we collected data across five primary schools and four secondary schools, we did focus groups with the primary school students as well as surveys and it's the surveys that I'll be talking about today where we captured students reports of experiences of discrimination, their attitudes towards diversity, their adult and student expectations towards intercultural contacts, so their motivations to respond without prejudice essentially, their motivated fairness, as well as some simple mental health methods.

So you can see here - I hope you can see that graph at the back OK - the types of direct racism experienced by students monthly or more. So for direct racism most reported experiences were reported to be perpetrated by students rather than teachers so that's a positive thing I think in some ways. And that the most common experience students reporting were being told that they didn't belong in Australia, so nearly 20 per cent reported that they had been told that at least monthly by other students. The other sorts of questions we asked where you can see there, 16 and a half per cent said that other students didn't want to play with them because of their cultural background, still concerning, I think that 9 per cent of students reported that they thought a teacher had thought that they couldn't do something because of their cultural background. And similarly 15 per cent feel left out by a student or 14 per cent (indistinct) pushed or hit by another student because of your cultural background.

Of course people want to know well how did that pan out across the different cultural backgrounds of the students but in this study we were only able to ask the students what country they had been born in and also what country their mother and father were born in so we categorised students into groups of students that were born in English speaking countries whose parents were also born in English speaking countries, students who were born in English speaking countries but parents were born in non English speaking countries and then students and parents who were both born in non English speaking countries there. And you can see here this is a cumulative proportion of students experiencing direct racism monthly or more, so there were six different forms of racism that students reported and you can see here that it is proportionally decreased. The ten groups to look at here - I probably have a pointer but I probably can't work out how to use it. So red are the students born in English speaking countries and whose parents were born in an English speaking country and then the purple is the students who were born in a non-English speaking country -. That’s really hard to say quickly - and whose parents were also born in a non-English speaking country. The blue interestingly is children who didn't know where either they or their parents were born and that is possibly students who are from the - or whose parents are from the refugee or humanitarian entering background and who actually don't know. The youngest of the students was eight so usually by that age they should know where they're from. And you can see there very clearly who was experiencing the most racism so there were significant differences there.

And again when we look at that on a daily basis you can see there that 22 and a half per cent were reporting direct experiences of racism every day. But interesting we didn't find any significant differences across demographics within that frequency of experience so we need a bigger sample to work out what's going in there and probably more refined measures of a race or ethnic background. Similarly to direct racism children born in a non English speaking country with parents also born in a non English speaking country were significantly more likely to report witnessing one or more types of vicarious racism monthly or more compared to the reference group who's born in an English speaking country with their parents, so 78 per cent compared to 64 per cent and you can see there the most common experience on a monthly basis was knowing that other students had been called names or teased but still quite high there vicarious experiences in terms of other students being left out at 42 and 45 per cent and 40 per cent knowing that students had been, so fairly high prevalence rates.

When we look at monthly or more - I'm doing the wrong thing sorry - so this is also looking at students reported motivated fairness towards people from different cultural groups. So it is encouraging to think that 85 per cent of students are saying it's important to me that I'm nice so they have some level of internal motivation to be fair to students from other cultural backgrounds. Interestingly it's lower that other students expect them to be nice to students froth other cultural backgrounds but also very high levels that they know that adults and teachers expect them to be fair towards people form different cultural groups. And we also found that when we looked at that, female students were much more likely to report than male students that they felt motivated to be fair to people from other cultural backgrounds so we need to find out what that gender difference is. So yes 53 and a half per cent of females compared to only 32 per cent of male students, so we need to find out what that's about. It's like any research study; there are always more questions than answers at the end of it.

So in terms of reported intercultural attitudes here, so this is really invoking some of the stereotype models around competence and warmth towards people from different cultural groups. Less than half the students reported positive intercultural attitudes towards people from different cultural groups so I think that's quite concerning and might actually (indistinct) you on the flip side students reported experiences of racism and I'm going way too slow. I might skip through this one and get to the key findings at the end but this is just looking at some vicarious associations between these experiences of racism and student intercultural attitudes and their motivated fairness and mental health and you can see there some of the - I've highlighted in bold some of the significant findings of what was related to what. So you can see there down the bottom that direct experiences of racism were related to lower levels of motivated fairness and intercultural attitudes, as you would expect. And also some quite significant - and we did some multivariable models as well but looking at direct effects of direct experiences of racism on student reported loneliness and sadness. So these are the adjusted (indistinct) associated.

Interestingly for majority students those with more friends from other cultures it was associated with greater levels of loneliness and sadness so possibly the other kids then exclude the students who are making an effort to go and be friends with students from other cultural backgrounds. So that's quite concerning. And in terms of the mental health outcomes, similarly to what the adolescent literature is saying, direct racism is associated with greater levels of loneliness and sadness after adjusting for all of the other confounders. And interestingly this is nobody has found this previously and we really want to look at this in - when we get our grant Alan - is that motivated fairness so having higher levels of motivated - have I got that round the right way. So being more motivated to be fair to other students the attributes are great - less loneliness, yes that's right. So if you're more motivated to be fair you're less lonely at school so we can actually argue that promoting diversity and positive attitudes actually helps everybody and potentially promotes mental health at school. So that's a really amazing finding but we need to actually work on that again across a greater sample.

I'm just going to skip through, I was going to show you some qualitative data but we'll just have to wait for that for next time. So where does this take us. Clearly experiences of racism and attitudes towards diversity are ongoing concerns in schools both potentially associated with poor student outcomes but despite those few findings from our small list community based sample here in Victoria we do need more population level data to really understand these factors across a greater sample of students in multiple contexts. Particularly there's a need for more robust measurement skills and I'm very happy that one of my Honour students in the room today who's working on some of these measurements skills with us so that we can actually compare and contrast these across racial/ethnic groups and across different family and school and neighbourhood contexts and do some of the multilevel modelling and really tease - and we've been talking with Jenny and Ben and Alan about doing some of this. We do need longitudinal designs to really look at these modulating and mediating factors over time particularly given the developmental processes of children and young people. Something I'm also quite passionate about is looking at the intersections between racism and other forms of discrimination and bullying and how do they actually feed in and mutually reinforce one another in terms of children’s outcomes. And of course we don't want to just talk about the problem we actually want to use the evidence that we do have to inform action, to promote positive attitudes towards diversity and counter racism's harmful effects on children and young people. Thank you.

Dr Nicholas Biddle

So thanks everyone for coming along, I’d also like to acknowledge the - in addition to my inability to use technology I'd also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and my - what I'm talking about is using data from a lot of surveys involving indigenous people and I'd like to acknowledge the contribution which indigenous people have made to all this data collection and the burden which are put on the indigenous population and recognise that we need to make the most of the available data we have given that burden. So Naomi has kind of given a really good background to definitions of racism, different experiences of racism and a little bit of empirical data on mainly migrant groups. What I'm going to talk about is a focus on the indigenous population and a couple of reasons for doing that, the main one being that there's like the evidence which Naomi put up, there's very strong evidence of both the effect and the experience of racism amongst - experience of racism amongst indigenous people. But also I think that the context and the way in which they are played out is very different to migrant populations so I think it's kind of worth looking at those separately.

I will start by talking about the policy context, look at the potential effects of attendance on outcomes so I'm going to focus on the way in which racism affects attendance at school and then the effect on other outcomes, look at how experiences of racism might be associated with attendance and then focus on what predicts or explains that experience. So why ultimately are we interested in experiences of racism amongst indigenous school kids. Well this is the six Closing the Gap targets which the current Federal Government and previous Federal Government have agreed to in conjunction with most of the States and Territories and they relate to or I guess they highlight the focus of current policy around indigenous affairs. I'm not going to go into each in detail but what I wanted to highlight is the potential effects of experiences in racism on all aspects of the Closing the Gap targets and all aspects of the ability of governments to meet their Closing the Gap targets.

So Naomi has talked a lot about and written a lot about health and so there's a clear overlap here between the headline target of closing the life expectancy gap but also mortality rates of kids, the effects of racism on parents and the effect that has on their kids. And then my focus though is on schools and the way in which the experiences in indigenous kids affects their willingness and ability to participate in the school system. So I guess that's been a framework for a while, more recently or the most recent change of government has brought a slight change of focus on indigenous policy so what I've got here is a quote from the Prime Minister's report which says, "The Australian Government's highest priority in indigenous affairs is getting children to school." So the clear corollary there which is that if you get kids to school then they'll improve their literacy and numeracy which will improve their employment outcomes which will improve their health outcomes and the outcomes of their kids, that's how you think but it clearly highlights the need to understand why it is that indigenous kids are less likely to attend school on a regular basis.

Here is the current government's approach to attendance, it's a bit of an evolving policy space but I think this kind of highlights the way in which this current government and other governments see attendance being improved. And I guess if you kind of read through it implicit in the view is that low attendance amongst indigenous kids is driven by kind of three main things, remoteness, so there's a huge focus on remote schools, experiencing receipt of welfare, the main policy focus is (indistinct) attendance through welfare, and also the effects of attending a public school, with a focus - with an increased budget on sending kids - scholarship opportunities for sending those kids to private schools and usually in urban areas. And I've no argument against some of these focuses, there's no doubt the remoteness makes it much more difficult to attend school, income support has less - there's less evidence for, but my point is it's a very narrow focus and we need to kind of understand what it is above and beyond these three main areas which are discouraging indigenous kids from attending school.

So are experiences of racism or unfair treatment one part of that explanation. So before I get into the experience of kids I want to talk a little bit about adults and that's partly because of kind of what Naomi talked about is how the experiences of adults and families can shape a child’s outcome, partly through that internalised racism but also the way in which parents and carers make decisions on behalf of kids. If a parent has a bad experience with a particular institution then they're much less likely to encourage their kids to engage in that institution. So this data comes from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, it's a bit old now, it's 2008 but it's the most recent data which we have and it asked, "in the last year have you felt that you have been treated unfairly because you are Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander?" So it's a very broad measure of experiences of racism but it's kind of the best we have.

What we found is that about 28 per cent of indigenous adults reported that they experienced some form of discrimination in the previous year and when you extrapolate that across the life course you can see that the majority of urban indigenous adults would experience racism at some point in time. This gives I guess the location or the context in which that racism is experienced and it's kind of similar to what Naomi is saying she found a very high percentage of those experience unfair treatment by members of the public, by police but also in the (indistinct) market, so how does that affect kids. Well in some analysis which I did with Jess Bath using the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children we found that children whose carers felt that they were discriminated against because of their indigenous status were significantly less likely to be attending preschool (indistinct) reports that discrimination.

So the experience of parents will then affect the experience of kids. There's a high degree of acceptance amongst the total Australian population to the notion that indigenous Australians experience prejudice but only a small minority of the general population reported that they themselves had negative attitudes towards the indigenous population. And that says to me that a lot of the experiences of indigenous people are coming from those who don't know or are unaware of the effects, which their actions might be having. So it's the potential effect of implicit prejudice. And coming back once again to Naomi's point about internalised racism, much of the view - sorry, the view within the total population relate to aspects of indigenous behaviour and indigenous attitudes so a higher percentage of people saying that - sorry a low percentage of people saying indigenous Australians were hard working and a low per cent saying they were disciplined. So that's kind of the context, trying to give you a bit of a sense of the family context, the political context in which a child's experiences are taking place.

So next I'm going to move the focus explicitly on school attendance and the first thing I want to do is show OK well given the amount of money, the amount of attention, is it really worth - is school attendance an issue, is it worth focusing on, does it affect long term outcomes. You can think of instances where it doesn’t and that depends on what other activities the kids are undertaking. But there's reasonably strong evidence that school attendance is one of the factors, which is affecting later school outcomes, literacy and numeracy. So all this graph gives here is I'm using a standardised test score with a mean of zero and a deviation of one and then look at how these different factors are associated with those test scores.

Grey bar is the indigenous population followed by the non indigenous population above the line saying that this is associated with better literacy and numeracy, below the line saying it's associated with worse and (indistinct) whether (indistinct) really wanted to show here is that yes attendance is one of the factors, if you miss school one month or two months both in the indigenous and non indigenous populations it is associated with lower rates of literacy and numeracy by the age of 15 but it's only one of the factors. So we also need to look at the effect of those experiences of racism on our preschool participation. So if those parents are less likely to send their kids to preschool and that therefore has long-term effects on the child's outcomes. So attendance is important but it's not the only thing and it’s not the only way in which racism might be affecting later school outcomes. So hopefully I've convinced you that attendance is important.

What about what are the determinants of attendance and is racism or experiences of racism one of them. So what I'm going to do is use two sets of data, one from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children to look at young kids' experiences and then the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Surveys to look at the total school population. So the first set of results looks at the factors associated with whether a child attended school every day in the previous week. This is using (indistinct) 3 of the L6, so the kids here are about six or seven years old and then I look at - these are the responses from kids and these are responses from parents. And there's other variables here which are controlled for which I don't include in the graph, age, sex, location and some characteristics of the carers but what I want to focus on is basically three main findings. The first is that the child's experiences in school affects or at least associated with their attendance. So if the child says that the children in their school are nice to them they're more likely to have attended school every day in the previous week so child's agency, what's happening to the child is important when explaining attendance.

Now this isn't quite getting at experiences of racism, we don't have that on the L6 yet but you can easily see how that could be an experience or be generally affected by experiences of racism. The other major finding though is that one of the key determinants of attendance is the child's health. So if a child is reported as having fair or poor health then they're significantly and quite substantially less likely to attend school and that makes perfect sense, you're not going to school if you're not healthy. But following on from Naomi's presentation, well health is likely to be substantially affected by experiences of racism so it's a mediating factor the effect of those experiences on child health and then on attendance. The final thing I wanted to show is that our focus on kids who are in receipt of welfare is probably a little bit miss - maybe miss a large proportion of the population. So the hollow bars are those where the difference isn't significantly significant and what you can see is those children who live in families whose main source of income is not related to salaries so that's mainly government transfers are not any more or less likely statistically to attend school on a regular basis. So what that means is that attendance is an issue for a much broader population than just those in receipt of welfare.

So that's any form of attendance but what about the child's decision not to attend school. So what I look at here is the difference in probability in having missed any days of school in the previous year without permission. Now it's a little bit this is reported by the parents, by the carers and of course a lot of the days, which the kids miss, the parents have no idea about that's why they do it without permission. But having said that it tells us something about a form of unexplained absences, that's absences, which the parent is aware of but they haven't (indistinct) for reasons above and beyond the permission from the parents. So once again there's a larger model, which includes a few other carer characteristics, but none of those were found to be significant. So what I look at is the kind of the characteristics of the carer school attendance, some forms of stress and also the experiences of or the best measure we have of experiences of racism in school. So I'll ignore racism to start with and just highlight a couple of things. Carers not surprisingly what we find with a lot of results is that relatively well educated parents or lesser educated parents kids are more likely to have missed school without permission and that might have something to do with why do those parents have relatively low levels of education. Well because of the negative experience they had in school, which then feeds through to the kids view of school. Housing stress, structural problems are associated and in particular family crises, so what's going on in the family has a big association with attendance. Health conditions doesn't really appear to be associated with a child' or a youth's decision so that's more affecting those other forms of absence as opposed to unexplained absence.

And finally if you weren't bullied or teased unfairly because of your indigenous status in the previous 12 months then you're significantly less likely to have missed school without permission. So even controlling for the housing stress and all those things experiences of - sorry this is yes, so just highlighting that bullying or unfair treatment is because of you indigenous status. So that is an important explanatory variable for school attendance. So what I've tried to get up to now is let's look at the policy context, attendance is a focus, is attendance important, yes it is, it explains academic outcomes, well what explains attendance, health, but also experiences of racism, OK so what predicts whether a child - whether an indigenous child experiences some form of bullying or unfair treatment due to their own indigenous status and that's what I'm going to look at in the final set of results.

So the dependent variable here is whether the carer reported that the child experienced some form of bullying or unfair treatment because of their indigenous status. So one, you're already missing out on those experiences if the child doesn't tell their carer or family so you're missing out on some aspects of that experience. But once again below the line, below this line means you're less likely to have experienced it, above the line more likely to, dark bar is difference in significance, hollow bars the difference is not significant. So what are the main findings? Well first that remoteness is a protective factor against experiences of unfair treatment and bullying. So those indigenous kids who live in remote areas are less likely to report to their carer they experience an unfair treatment. And there are a few potential explanations for this and some of it kind of flows from Naomi's work around the characteristics of those in the schools in which indigenous kids are attending. So the majority of indigenous kids in non-remote areas in particular attend schools where there are very few other indigenous kids and it appears from this evidence and from other evidence that they can be predicting factors for experiences of racism. So that kind of once again (indistinct) the focus, the exclusive focus on remote schools in terms of attendance.

Mobility is a predictor factor, so those indigenous kids who have moved in the previous five years and there is data on more frequent moves and we'll look at that, but any form of mobility is associated with experiences of unfair treatment or bullying. Kind of makes sense as well, I mean think about the longer time you've had in a particular school the greater scope you've had to develop those social networks and to develop strategies to avoid those sources of bullying or unfair treatment. Living in a household with non indigenous residents is a protective factor and this is something which I wasn't predicting beforehand but other evidence using the L6 has shown slightly different results that living in a non indigenous mixed household is a predictive factor but something we need to look into in a little bit more detail. But it does show once again that the family experience matters and it might be that those kids who live in households have some form of protection from the experience, which the other household members have.

Not surprisingly - well maybe it is a little bit surprisingly experiences of bullying or unfair treatment increases across the school career so very low for preschool and then the base test here in high school which is essentially higher than in the other school types. And finally what I thought was a very interesting finding and something we need to look into in more detail is there's no real association with whether the school teaches about indigenous culture and you can kind of think of plausible explanations as to why that might have a positive and a negative effect on experiences of racism - experiences of unfair treatment and bullying. And in terms of a positive - teaching about indigenous culture might have a positive effect or a protective effect in terms of increasing understanding of other kids in the school but it might have a negative effect in terms of creating difference amongst the school body. And what this shows is on average there's no effect so what I think we therefore need to look at is well what type of teaching about indigenous culture has the positive effects and which ones have those negative effects.

So this data I'm not going to go through it talks about the experiences of 15 year olds but I'll just quickly tell you what the main results were in the summary. So what do I think are the main findings from the analysis on indigenous kids. So first that there's some justification for the focus on attendance, but this needs to be supported by a range of evidence and that health is a critical determinant and that may be a potential mediating effect of racism. Attendance isn't the only issue explaining poor outcomes in early childhood experiences, and other factors are important and once again they might be affected again by experiences of racism. Experiences vary substantially across the population and as Naomi mentioned it would be good to have longitudinal data to look at the cumulative effects of racism, whether there are particular groups who have repeated experiences.

What I didn't show is that schools in which indigenous students attend explains some of the variations in student experience but even in the same school indigenous students are less likely to feel the teachers are (indistinct) so it’s not just the schools which they attend. And finally I wouldn't be an academic if I didn't talk bout the work that we need to do. There is much we don't know about the indigenous students' experiences of racism, even the ones which I think are important it would be good to have a bit of a discussion about and the ones you guys think are important. That's it, thanks




The transcript is provided for information purposes only and is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the transcript undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. Before using the material contained in the transcript, the permission of the relevant presenter should be obtained.

The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

AIFS podcasts

Leading researchers discuss significant issues affecting Australian families.

Explore our featured podcasts


AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.