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New study examines schools’ support for First Nations youth

Research | Newsroom

School support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth fostering their cultural identity will be the subject of a new study by two Indigenous social scientists.

Worimi man Jacob Prehn and Palawa colleague Mike Guerzoni will research the levels of support experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and look at where schools can improve.

Drs Prehn and Guerzoni have received a grant from the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia’s Rechnitz Memorial Fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.

Dr Prehn is Associate Dean Indigenous in the College of Arts, Law and Education and a senior lecturer in the School of Social Sciences. Dr Guerzoni is an Indigenous Fellow Academic Development and a criminologist in the School of Social Sciences.

Dr Prehn said the study would also shed light on how confidence in Indigenous identity can lead to both stronger relationships and better academic results at school.

“We hope that our work from this grant will contribute to practical change in schools around Australia on cultural support for, and service provision to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in this area,” he said. “As a proud Worimi man, this is something I am passionate about.”

The study also aims to contribute to better understandings of how to achieve the socioeconomic outcomes and targets of the Closing the Gap Strategy.

Dr Guerzoni said it would assist in ensuring young people are being heard.

“At present within child protection and safeguarding research, and other fields more broadly, there is a renewed emphasis on the views of young people being listened to and considered,” he said. “Our work here will ensure that the perspectives and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth on their educational experiences are being conveyed and considered, and not only those from the adults in their lives.

“We are honoured to receive this award, and are grateful to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Rechnitz Estate for this grant.”

The Wilhelm, Martha, and Otto Rechnitz Memorial Fund was established in 2022 to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers in the social sciences with grants of up to $20,000.

The inaugural recipients were announced at the launch of Social Sciences Week at Parliament House in Canberra with Minister Dr Anne Aly MP and the re-established Parliamentary Friends of Social Sciences.

Also receiving grants were Dr Josephine Bourne from the University of Queensland, who will study women's experiences in governance and leadership on Badu Island, and Dr Olivia Evans from the Australian National University, who will lead a project into online racism against in the leadup to the Voice to Parliament referendum.

“We were delighted to see a strong field of applicants for these research awards, and we firmly believe that the successful recipients will go on to have a significant impact in their field and for all Australians,” Academy President Professor Richard Holden said.

“In particular, we are delighted to be able to support contemporary and highly relevant work by outstanding researchers.”

The fund commemorates Rev Dr Wilhelm Rechnitz, a refugee from Nazi Germany who worked extensively in the Torres Strait Islands, and his parents Otto and Martha Rechnitz who were mistreated by the Nazi regime.

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