Tuesday, 16 Oct 2001

Youth pathways in rural and remote Australia are in crisis, according to a paper presented today by Dr Barry Golding at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) conference, Understanding Youth Pathways: What does the research tell us?

"Without access to basic services, including those required for people of all ages to learn, families with children will not move to or stay in rural and remote areas of Australia," Dr Golding said.

A Researcher in Vocational, Community and Adult Education at Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE, Dr Golding said many of the worst inequities in terms of access to learning are found between particular areas and groups in non-metropolitan Australia. He added those who remain the most disadvantaged are remote Indigenous communities.

"For example, more than one third of Indigenous people (35.8 per cent) in the Northern Territory live more than 80 km from a school compared to only one in 20 non-Indigenous people," Dr Golding said.

He said that contrary to some stereotypes, the strongest desire and need for learning is in the smallest and remotest places.

"People operating small businesses and family enterprises in such remote contexts have to do it all. The remote owner is often the operator, the worker and also an external contractor. If young people are to remain and be employed in the area or town of their birth, they need a wide range of highly developed skills: not just in producing, but also in accounting, managing, coordinating and marketing," Dr Golding said.

According to Dr Golding, online learning as a stand alone learning tool has proven unsuccessful in non-metropolitan areas.

"In rural and remote areas most learning is valued for its ability to connect people to others, to their communities and to a wider body of knowledge and experience. Online learning to date has generally not been able to achieve such connections," he said.

Dr Golding said males are disengaged from learning in most non-metropolitan communities as most adult learning organisations in small towns are managed, controlled, staffed and patronised primarily by females.

"Whichever sector or field of study one looks at beyond the traditional manual trades, women are out-participating and outperforming men of all ages in non-metropolitan areas in all areas of formal and informal learning," Dr Golding said.