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The Australian National University

Generational change, learning and remote Australian Indigenous youth

Working Paper 68 / 2010


In remote Indigenous Australia the typical mainstream youth transition from school to employment does not match the reality of community life, where traditional cultural schemas underpin the practice of everyday life and the construction of social identity. Although the developmental trajectory of the current generation of Indigenous youth has diverged from cultural norms, the introduced western trajectory of institutional learning leading to labour market employment does not yet offer a substitute paradigm. I argue that if young people are to become competent, mature adults able to shape their own futures and the economic and social viability of their communities, then attention will need to be paid, not only to institutional education and training pathways, but also to other approaches to learning. Such alternate pathways can contribute to the formation of a positive sense of self, strong cultural identities and the learning and literacy skills needed to shape Indigenous futures. This paper uses research from remote central and northern Australia to explore community-based approaches to youth learning and cultural production.

Keywords: Indigenous youth culture, cultural transition, Indigenous education, employment, lifespan learning

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