Skip to main content
Log in

It’s special and it’s specific: understanding the early childhood education experiences and expectations of young Indigenous Australian children and their parents

The Australian Educational Researcher Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Whilst early childhood education is regarded as important for young Indigenous Australians and it has been a feature of policy since the 1960s, it does not receive the same attention as compulsory schooling for Indigenous Australian students. A serious lack of large-scale research contributes to the devaluing of early childhood education for young Indigenous Australians by some stakeholders such as governments, academics and research, but not for the main stakeholders, namely young Indigenous Australian children and their parents. This paper aims to address this by drawing on large-scale qualitative and quantitative data from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. First, it will analyse data pertaining to the experiences of Indigenous Australian children to uncover what they believe to be special about their early childhood education. Second, it will analyse data pertaining to the specific choices made by their parents regarding their early childhood education. The paper concludes by discussing the role of research in strengthening areas within Indigenous Australian early childhood education and identifying areas where it is valued to the same level as compulsory schooling.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Aronson, J. (1995). A pragmatic view of thematic analysis. The Qualitative Report, 2(1), 1–3.

  • Atkinson-Lopez, S. (2010). Interviewing adults in Indigenous community. In G. MacNaughton, S. A. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp. 85–100). Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. (2013). Longitudinal study of Indigenous children: Data user’s guide.

  • Australian Government Productivity Commission. (2013). Report on government services 2013: Indigenous compendium.

  • Council of Australian Governments. (2009). National partnerships agreement for Indigenous early childhood development.

  • Fasoli, L., Benbow, R., Deveraux, K., Falk, I., Harris, R., Hazard, M., et al. (2004). Both ways’ children’s services report, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. Batchelor: Batchelor Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fasoli, L., & James, R. (2007). Researching remote Aboriginal children’s services: It’s all about rules. Contemporary issues in early childhood (Vol. 8, p. 332).

  • Fleer, M., & Williams-Kennedy, D. (2002). Building bridges: Literacy development in young Indigenous children. Watson, AR: Australian Early Childhood Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mann, D., Knight, S., & Thomson, J. (2011). Aboriginal access to preschool: What attracts and retains Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in preschools? A small qualitative and quantitative study of inner Sydney mainstream preschools. Sydney: SDN Child and Family Services.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin, K. L. (2016). Aboriginal early childhood education: contexts and conditions. In K. L. Martin (Ed.), Voices and visions: Aboriginal early childhood education in Australia (pp. 9–19). Mt Victoria: Pademelon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McConnochie, K. R., & Russell, A. (1982). Early childhood services for Aboriginal children. Canberra: AGPS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skelton, F., Barnes, S., Kikkawa, D., & Walter, M. (2014). Footprints in time: The longitudinal study of Indigenous children: Up and running. Family Matters, 95, 30–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Teasdale, G. R., & Whitelaw, A. J. (1981). The early childhood education of Aboriginal Australians. Melbourne: ACER.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wise, S. (2013). Improving the early life outcomes of Indigenous children: Implementing early childhood development at the local level. Issues paper no: 6, closing the gap clearinghouse. Australian Government; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karen L. Martin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martin, K.L. It’s special and it’s specific: understanding the early childhood education experiences and expectations of young Indigenous Australian children and their parents. Aust. Educ. Res. 44, 89–105 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: