Notes on the data: Aboriginal education

Aboriginal participation in vocational education and training, 2017


Policy context:   Vocational education and training (VET) refers to post-compulsory education and training (excluding degree and higher level programs delivered by further education institutions) which provides people with occupational or work-related knowledge and skills [1]. VET also includes programs which provide the basis for subsequent vocational programs. VET qualifications include certificates, diplomas, trade certificates, traineeships and other qualifications awarded by Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and other training providers [2]. VET programs may be government-funded, or delivered on a fee-for-service basis by public or private providers. For school-aged participants, VET programs offer industry-specific skills and pathways to further study and initial employment opportunities [2].

Participation in VET programs is higher among the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population. For younger Indigenous Australians, VET is principally an alternative to schooling as a means for continuing education and training, while for younger non-Indigenous Australians, it complements twelve years of schooling [3].

In 2010, changes to VET FEE-HELP policy saw regulations for VET FEE-HELP providers softened. This led to inappropriate and unethical practices by some providers, including aggressive marketing targeting vulnerable people, with little or no risk of repercussions. Policy was updated in 2015 to address the issues and protect the interests of students. The effectiveness of these measures is yet unknown [4].


  1. Naidu R, Stanwick J, Frazer K. Glossary of VET, National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Adelaide. 2013.
  2. Gørgens T, Ryan C. The impact of additional educational qualifications for early school leavers. Canberra: Department of Education, Science and Training; 2006.
  3. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) Taskforce on Indigenous Education. Exploring multiple pathways for Indigenous students: discussion paper. Carlton, Victoria: Curriculum Corporation for MCEETYA; 2001.
  4. Noonan P. VET funding in Australia: Background trends and future directions. Mitchell Institute, Melbourne. 2016.

Notes: Vocational education and training (VET) data includes all VET activity delivered in Australia to Australian residents by government providers (TAFE institutes, Universities and other government providers), community education providers, enterprise providers, private training providers and schools.

Note that student counts may be inflated as it is possible for students to attend multiple training providers within one collection period.


Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Networks, Indigenous Quintiles and Indigenous Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Aboriginal students participating in vocational education and training


Denominator:  Total Aboriginal population


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population; and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd., 2017; and the Aboriginal estimated resident population as at 30 June 2016, developed by PHIDU based on the ABS Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2016.


© PHIDU This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia licence.