“I think a lot of people can relate because they had to teach their kids at home and they can visualise not having internet access and how challenging it would be,” he said.
“Imagine writing a whole report just using a mobile phone.”
He said the problems were fixable and needed a combined government and private sector response.
“The private sector is the one that can offer infrastructure around this,” he said.
“To have an educated, skilled workforce in remote communities offers a lot of economic benefit too.”
Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation co-chair Tom Calma said technological innovation alone could not be relied upon and that a comprehensive strategy was needed to close the digital divide.
“Digital delivery and access are key determinants of both education and health,” he said.
“Non-access is significantly and detrimentally impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, irrespective of where they live.”
Victorian Aboriginal Education Association general manager Lionel Bamblett said the state government offering laptops and dongles to address digital access issues during remote learning had been successful.
“Any Koori student in need of equipment, they were given access,” he said.
“It went a long way to support those students.
“It still doesn’t counter that lack of face-to-face contact with a teacher but it worked to a high degree.”
The report’s release coincides with other studies showing persistent educational disadvantage for First Nations children.
The National Report on Schooling in Australia, produced by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment and Reporting Authority, released statistics in 2020 showing a growing attendance gap for Indigenous students.
The federal government’s Closing the Gap Report 2020 said Australia had not met goals in the numbers of Indigenous children at or above national minimum standards in reading and numeracy by 2018.
Anna is an education reporter at The Age.