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Younger Indigenous people were more likely than older Indigenous people to have completed Year 12. The proportion of Indigenous people who had completed Year 12, as shown in the 2006 Census, ranged from 36% of people aged 18-24 years to 9% of people aged 55 years and over (graph 3.3). Overall, Indigenous males and females reported similar rates of Year 12 completion (22% compared with 24%).
Indigenous people living in rural or remote areas of Australia were less likely than those in urban areas to have completed Year 12. In 2006, 31% of Indigenous people living in major cities had completed school to this level, compared with 22% in regional areas and 14% in remote areas. With the exception of Queensland, this was reflected across the states and territories, with the ACT (46%) having the largest proportion of Indigenous people who had completed Year 12 and the Northern Territory the lowest (10%).
Despite the improvements in school completion within the Indigenous population, Indigenous people aged 15 years and over were still half as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to have completed school to Year 12 in 2006 (23% compared with 49%). They were also twice as likely to have left school at Year 9 or below (34% compared with 16%). In 2006, around 10,400 young Indigenous adults aged 18-24 years (22%) had left school at Year 9 or below compared with 58,100 non-Indigenous young people in the same age group (4%). These relative differences have remained unchanged since 2001.
Non-school qualifications are attained through the successful completion of vocational education and training and/or higher education at universities. Some vocational education and training may be undertaken in conjunction with secondary school studies. At the broadest level, non-school qualifications are grouped as follows: Postgraduate degree; Graduate diploma/Graduate certificate; Bachelor degree; Advanced diploma/Diploma; and Certificate. Within the Certificate grouping, a distinction is made between Certificate levels I/II and Certificate levels III/IV due to significant differences in the skills and knowledge attained by students completing Certificates at these levels. While Certificate levels I/II can be generally characterised as providing a set of basic vocational skills with a narrow range of application, Certificate levels III/IV provide a broader knowledge base and the skills necessary to perform a wide range of skilled tasks, to provide technical advice of a complex nature, and to provide work group leadership when organising activities (ABS 2001).
Results from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing show that 47,600 Indigenous people aged 25-64 years had attained a non-school qualification. The proportion of Indigenous people who had a non-school qualification increased from 20% in 2001 to 26% in 2006. The majority of this increase was at the Certificate/Diploma level (14% to 20%). There was only a slight increase in the proportion of those with a Bachelor Degree or above (4% to 5%).
There was no difference in the proportion of Indigenous males and females who had a non-school qualification in 2006 (26%). Reflecting the location of tertiary institutions and the availability of jobs that utilise tertiary qualifications, the likelihood of having a non-school qualification was lower in remote areas than in non-remote areas. Overall, 30% of Indigenous people aged 25-64 years in non-remote areas had a non-school qualification compared with 15% of people in remote areas.
A relatively small number of Indigenous people did not report the level of their non-school qualification (2,200 or 5% of those with a non-school qualification). Of the 45,300 Indigenous people aged 25-64 years who reported their level of qualification in 2006, 62% had obtained a Certificate (48% had a Certificate level III/IV, 8% had a Certificate level I/II, and 6% had a Certificate, the level of which was unknown). Reflecting a greater tendency on the part of men to undertake study towards a trade qualification, Indigenous men had attained a Certificate level III/IV at almost twice the rate of Indigenous women (63% compared with 34%). Around one in six Indigenous people (17%) had an Advanced Diploma or Diploma and 21% had a Bachelor Degree or above. The majority of Indigenous people with higher level degrees (i.e. above the Certificate level) were female. Indigenous women were twice as likely as Indigenous men to have an Advanced Diploma or Diploma (22% compared with 12%) and more than one-and-a-half times as likely to have a Bachelor degree or above (26% compared with 15%).
Among the 42,400 Indigenous people aged 25-64 years who reported both the level of their non-school qualification and their main field of study, 18% had studied in the field of Management and Commerce, 17% in Society and Culture, and 16% in Engineering and Related Technologies. Indigenous men were much more likely than women to have a qualification in the field of Engineering and Related Technologies and Architecture and Building, whereas women were more likely than men to have attained a qualification in the fields of Management and Commerce, Education, and Health.
Although there have been continued improvements in the educational attainment of Indigenous Australians in recent years, their levels of attainment remain below those of non-Indigenous Australians. Among those aged 25-64 years, non-Indigenous people were twice as likely as Indigenous people to have a non-school qualification in 2006 (53% compared with 26%). Non-Indigenous people were more than four times as likely to have a Bachelor Degree or above (21% compared with 5%) and twice as likely to have an Advanced Diploma or Diploma (9% compared with 4%).