Connections, community and context: The importance of post-boarding school pathways and re-engagement for remote Aboriginal students


  • Tessa Benveniste CQUniversity
  • John Guenther Batchelor Institute
  • Lorraine King CQUniversity
  • Drew Dawson CQUniversity



Aboriginal, boarding school, residential college, post-schooling, remote community


For many remote Aboriginal Australian students, periods of time during their secondary education are spent living away from home at a boarding school. While financial, political and community support is burgeoning for boarding models that provide scholarships, sports programs or accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, very little academic research or evidence exists that examines the experiences of students post-boarding. This paper forms part of a broader doctoral research study, but specifically focuses on how past students, families and communities from remote South Australia view the outcomes of boarding. Using a Grounded theory design, thematic analysis of 32 semi-structured interviews with past students, families and community members led to the identification of three main themes: connections (early exits), community (re-engaging in education), and context (employment in remote communities).  Findings indicated that outcomes are not linear nor easily defined. Developing a theory of change was recommended as a future approach to help families, students and remote schools to clearly define goals and measures of success for each student, recognising a range of interpretations and conceptions of ‘success’, and adapting these goals as necessary.


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Author Biographies

Tessa Benveniste, CQUniversity

Tessa Benveniste is a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Central Queensland University. Her research projects across South Australia and Queensland have largely involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and boarding schools they attend. Tessa applies a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and grounds her work in the context and views of participants.

John Guenther, Batchelor Institute

John Guenther is currently the Research Leader, Education and Training, for Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, based in Darwin. His work focuses on learning contexts, theory and practice, and policies as they connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Lorraine King, CQUniversity

Lorraine King is a Senior Aboriginal Community Researcher, born and raised in Papunya community 240 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. She identifies as a Pintupi-Luritja Warlpiri woman, and was raised by her grandmother, spending most of her childhood between Papunya and her grandfather’s homeland (Central Mount Wedge) on Warlpiri Country. She is a qualified interpreter in Pitjantjatjara, Luritja-Pintupi and Warlpiri languages.

Drew Dawson, CQUniversity

Drew Dawson is the Director of Research and Development/Engaged Research Chair at CQUniversity. He has worked in a variety of areas over the last three decades. Drew has a long-standing interest in social innovation and has worked with Indigenous communities in the area of community and social enterprise development with a particular interest on liminal economic spaces between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.


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How to Cite

Benveniste, T., Guenther, J., King, L., & Dawson, D. (2022). Connections, community and context: The importance of post-boarding school pathways and re-engagement for remote Aboriginal students. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(1).




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