Aboriginal truancy plan lashed

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier.

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier has criticised the Federal Government's truancy program for Aboriginal students, describing it as punitive and short-sighted.

Education Department figures indicate that two schools targeted by the program, Roebourne District High School and Onslow Primary School, reported falls in attendance.

As part of the strategy to target 73 schools that had the worst attendance rates in Australia, 21 school engagement officers were employed in Onslow and Roebourne last year to take children to class every day.

Roebourne's secondary attendance dropped from 32.1 per cent in 2013 to 30.3 per cent at the end of last year. In Onslow, the primary attendance went from 75.1 per cent in 2013 to 70.3 per cent last year, well below the State average of 92.1 per cent.

Mr Collier said he never agreed with the truancy program.

"It just shows the short-sightedness of pouring money in with another program without real co-ordination between levels of government or between government departments," Mr Collier said.

"If you're an Aboriginal child and your literacy and numeracy skills are very limited, you find school a vehemently negative experience - if you've got a bloke waiting out there or chasing you and telling you to go back to school, that's not going to be an incentive.

"Turning this around for Aboriginal kids doesn't come from having truancy officers.

"It comes from ensuring school is a positive experience."

A spokesman from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said the Federal Government was working closely with the State Government to increase attendance through the $46.5 million program.

"It is pleasing to note there were positive signs regarding school attendance in the second half of 2014 at both the Roebourne and Onslow schools, and we hope this momentum continues into 2015," he said.