In April 2011, the Australian Government announced a Review into Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. In order to assist the Review, the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research was commissioned by Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations to examine the role of higher education in the growth of Indigenous employment in professional occupations, to assess the associated costs and benefits to the Australian economy and society, and to explore likely barriers to growing the number of Indigenous professionals. This paper examines aspects of higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous people, structured in two main parts. First, a statistical overview of recent Indigenous employment growth by occupational category, and it compares this with non-Indigenous occupational change. It also explores the role that post-school qualifications have played in this process. Second, analysis of select economic and social returns to higher education and employment along with the effects of being a professional (or manager) both to individuals and the Australian economy and society. By way of conclusion we reflect on some of the barriers to further expansion of the professional occupational base.
Keywords: Indigenous education, Indigenous employment, Indigenous professionals, economic returns from education.