Young advocate fighting for a more inclusive education

Young advocate fighting for a more inclusive education

More than half of Indigenous students miss at least 10 percent of the school year according to the latest update from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority.

For 27 year old Darumbal and South Sea Islander, Hayley McQuire this is indicative of an education system that fails to recognise and embed Indigenous values.

“Education in Australia has historically been used as a tool of colonisation to assimilate and control Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People,” McQuire explains.

“In spite of tremendous progress made, this history still impacts our communities and we see it repeated in policies that tie welfare payments to school attendance, that close remote high schools, and places educational success as achieving parity with non-Indigenous Australians.”

In 2015 McQuire formed the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC). The collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people advocate for education reform to provide a more inclusive, culturally safe learning environment. Their work is informed by drawing on the knowledge and expertise of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals across a range of sectors as well as the experiences of young Indigenous people today.

McQuire as a representative of NIYEC has been selected to participate in the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) 2018 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program — an immersive incubator program for small businesses and initiatives making a social impact.

NIYEC works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to be informed and actively involved in decisions made about their education.

“Our aim is to redefine what education looks like for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to ensure they have access to educational opportunities that reflect us and our aspirations for self-determination. This means a school experience where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see themselves reflected, included and empowered.

“In the future we plan to run face-to-face workshops, online discussions and surveys with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities to mobilise the next generation of education advocates.”

McQuire, who has previously held roles as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group and UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador was chosen from more than 400 applicants for the Young Social Pioneers program. Her key goal is to build a collective of voices across the country to stand up for Indigenous ways of teaching and learning as well as to understand how to make NIYEC sustainable in the long-term.

“I want to get it to a point where I can walk away and it will be fine without me. In 50 years I can come back as Auntie Hayley to tell stories from the old days. I’m also looking forward to connecting with experts who can support us with legal work, financial management, systems change, health and wellbeing.”

The YSP program has helped almost 250 different young people from across Australia with their ventures and ideas for the last nine years. Many former YSP participants have gone on to create significant impact in their fields including Usman Iftikhar, co-Founder of Catalysr; Vanessa Marian, director of Groove Therapy; Taj Pabari, Founder of Fiftysix Creations; and more.

The full 2018 Young Social Pioneers cohort is listed here.


For all media queries please contact FYA Media Manager, Shona McPherson via 0407 507 580 or


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