School (non-)attendance and ‘mobile cultures’: theoretical and empirical insights from Indigenous Australia

Sarah Prout Quicke, Nicholas Biddle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians are significantly and substantially less likely to be attending school on a given day than their non-Indigenous counterparts. This has been shown to have long-term consequences for the development of the mainstream literacy and numeracy skills associated with formal schooling, as well as later school and employment outcomes. Reducing this gap is a key focus of government education policy within Australia. Hampering the design of effective policy, however, is the lack of a robust empirical and theoretical framework to explain school (non-)attendance that not only builds on existing research, but also reflects the specific circumstances and aspirations of Indigenous students and their families. This article applies mixed-methods quantitative and qualitative techniques to explore what Indigenous student (non-)attendance in Australia might tell us regarding the relationship between highly marginalised student groups and formal education systems. A robust understanding of these geographically and socio-culturally situated school (non-)attendance patterns and processes allows us to build on and contribute to human capital, critical, resistance, and other behavioural theories of formal education and draw parallels for other population sub-groups globally, especially those that display ongoing patterns of high geographic mobility. Our analysis suggests that absenteeism amongst marginalised and/or highly mobile populations, may be most usefully conceived of as a manifestation of structural incompatibilities between formal schooling systems and the life projects and circumstances of these school-aged children and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalRace Ethnicity and Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017


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