Educational experiences of young indigenous males: The school to prison pipeline.

Ms Grace O’Brien1

1Phd Candidate University Of Technology Sydney, , Australia

Despite ample international literature regarding the school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile justice researchers in the Australian context have remained relatively silent about this phenomenon.  While there are considerable studies investigating the criminological characteristics of juvenile detention in Australia; there is a substantial gap examining the educational exclusion of young Indigenous males from the formal education system and whether this has a direct bearing on their incarceration.  In 1991 the Australian Federal government released the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Report.  Of the 339 recommendations, Recommendation 62 identified that there was an alarming over-representation of Indigenous youth coming into contact with the criminal justice system.  My research challenges the status quo of privilege and power that exists within the hierarchical institutions of education and the criminal justice system.  Focusing specifically on Queensland State Schools the key research themes identify that exclusion from school and the over-representation of young Indigenous males in the juvenile justice system may be connected.  The implications of this study could have a significant impact on future research or policy direction for both educators and those who work within the criminal justice system.


Grace O’Brien was born in Scotland, from Irish/Scots heritage. She has worked in partnership with Indigenous communities for nearly 40 years. Formally the Manager of Indigenous Education for the North Coast Region of Queensland; Grace completed her Master of Indigenous Education through Macquarie University and received the Vice Chancellor’s commendation for Academic Excellence. Now a PhD student in her final year at the University of Technology Sydney, Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges, Grace is researching educational reform to support the engagement of young Indigenous males at school  preventing their over-representation in the juvenile justice system. Her aim is to highlight systemic educational inequities that may lead to the disengagement and exclusion of some Indigenous boys from education.