The 'Come and Go' syndrome of teachers in remote indigenous schools: Listening to the perspective of indigenous teachers about what helps teachers to stay and what makes them go

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High turnover of teachers in remote Indigenous community schools in the Northern Territory has long been considered a significant contributing factor to low academic outcomes for students in those communities. The average length of stay for a non-Indigenous teacher in a remote school can more easily be measured in months than years. This instability in staffing is largely responsible for the instability experienced by many students in these schools. This 'Come and Go' syndrome holds true for non-Indigenous staff; however, the opposite can often be said of Indigenous staff. Indigenous staff in these schools tend to be the 'Stay and Stay and Stay' teachers. They have often worked in their local community school for decades and have seen literally hundreds of non-Indigenous teachers 'Come and Go'. They have been the ones to provide a semblance of stability and some level of program sustainability in education for the children of their own communities. While there is some qualitative data on the things that improve retention of non-Indigenous teachers in rural and remote schools, it mostly looks at the training and skills development that can be applied to the situation. No one has really ever asked Indigenous teachers for their observations or opinions about what makes teachers stay and what makes them go. This article will draw on conversations from two focus groups of Indigenous teachers from remote schools in Central Australia who were invited to discuss just this question.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Indigenous Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Indigenous
  • remote
  • teacher
  • turnover

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