Halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent (by 2020)
- In 2018–19, around 66 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 years had attained Year 12 or equivalent.
- Between 2008 and 2018–19, the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 years attaining Year 12 or equivalent increased by around 21 percentage points. The gap has narrowed by around 15 percentage points, as non-Indigenous attainment rates have improved at a slower pace.
- The biggest improvement in Year 12 attainment rates was in Major Cities, where the gap narrowed by around 20 percentage points—from 26 percentage points in 2012–13 to 6 percentage points in 2018–19.
What the data tells us
The target to halve the gap in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020 is on track.
One of the main indicators of educational achievement is completing high school to Year 12. This is a prerequisite for many jobs and is seen as an indicator of aptitude and attitude (Biddle 2010). Indigenous Australians, who complete Year 12, or a higher qualification, are substantially more likely to be employed. They are also more likely to work full-time and in higher-skilled occupations than early school leavers (Shirodkar et al. 2018; Venn 2018).
The Year 12 attainment rate is the proportion of 20–24 year old Indigenous Australians who have completed Year 12 or obtained a Certificate level II or above qualification. The two data sources used to measure progress against this target are the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census of Population and Housing (Census),1 and the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) 2018–19.2
Over the past decade, the Year 12 attainment rate for Indigenous Australians increased by around 21 percentage points, from around 45 per cent in 2008 to 66 per cent in 2018–19. The proportion of non-Indigenous students attaining Year 12 or equivalent also increased, but by a smaller amount (around 5 percentage points). As such, the gap has narrowed by 15 percentage points—from around 40 percentage points in 2008 to 25 percentage points in 2018–19 (Figure 5.1).
Year 12 attainment is associated with a range of complex and multi-faceted factors. Enablers and barriers include: prior educational experience, academic ability, access to secondary schools (particularly for those in remote communities), and financial and other support from parents (Biddle and Cameron 2012). Students thrive at schools that engage with communities, provide a culturally inclusive curriculum with appropriate support, and have skilled teachers with high expectations (Ockenden 2014; Osborne and Guenther 2013; McRae 2002; Stronger Smarter Institute 2014).
States and territories
The proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 years attaining Year 12 or equivalent level of education decreases with remoteness. The Year 12 attainment rate is 85 per cent in Major Cities compared with 38 per cent in Very Remote areas.
Major Cities experienced the largest increase in the proportion of Indigenous students who had attained Year 12 or equivalent (Figure 5.3). In Major Cities, where over 40 per cent of the Indigenous population aged 20–24 years live, the Year 12 attainment rate increased by around 22 percentage points, from 63 per cent in 2012–13, to 85 per cent in 2018–19.5
In 2018–19, the gap in Year 12 attainment rates was narrowest in Major Cities (around 6 percentage points) and widest in Very Remote Australia (around 52 percentage points). Between 2012–13 and 2018–19, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians widened in all areas, except for Major Cities (Figure 5.4).6
 This NATSIHS is a supplementary data source and is not directly comparable with Census data. Caution should be taken when Interpreting NATSIHS data at disaggregated levels (i.e. by jurisdiction or remoteness). See the Technical Appendix for further information.
 Note that cross-border enrolment in the Australian Capital Territory has a larger impact on the statistics than other jurisdictions due to a smaller population. It is not unusual for rates in the Australian Capital Territory to exceed 100 per cent. This is mainly due to the enrolment of students who are usual residents in the surrounding New South Wales regions.