Anthony Dillon

Lecturer at Australian Catholic University

Speaking at


Different but the Same: What makes a successful learning experience for Indigenous primary school children

In Australia, Indigenous children typically start behind non-Indigenous children and are unlikely to catch up. They are more likely to attend regularly and more likely to drop out. However, despite this appalling state, there are many schools that are getting it right when it comes to Indigenous education. How are these educators making a difference? How do they attend to the cultural differences? How do they address the legacy of historical injustices? What differences in learning needs and learning styles are addressed? These questions have been asked often when trying to solve the problem of poor educational outcomes for Australian Indigenous students. Further, how are challenges of teaching in remote schools (where often there is a higher proportion of Indigenous children) addressed? Qualitative research done in three rural schools and one remote school suggests that Indigenous children and non-Indigenous children are far more alike than they are different. This is not suggest that there are no differences, but successful schools tend to start with the commonalities rather than the differences. This has implications (that may not be readily accepted by those who emphasise differences) for practice and policy.


Anthony is a registered psychologist and is currently a post doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney. He is active as a social commentator on Aboriginal issues, having had several thought provoking articles published in The Australian Newspaper, The Conversation, and the ABC Drum online. His research interests are in the area of statistics, applied psychology, the conceptualisation, understanding, and treatment of behaviours labelled as ‘mental’ and race relations/politics.