Uplifting Education: $1 Billion in Funding Shaping the Future of Northern Territory Public Schools

Mar 13, 2024

The Northern Territory and federal governments have announced an exciting pledge of $1 billion to revolutionise education in Northern Territory public schools by 2029. This significant investment aims to elevate education standards in Darwin and across the Territory, marking a landmark commitment to ensuring quality education for all students.

With a focus on enhancing outcomes for schools and students, the funds will be strategically allocated over the next five years. This commitment not only highlights the importance of education in the Northern Territory but also sets the stage for transformative changes in public schools, promising a brighter future for the region’s education landscape.

The Funding Agreement Details

In an unprecedented move, the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government have outlined a comprehensive funding agreement aimed at significantly enhancing the quality of education in Northern Territory public schools. Here are the key details of this groundbreaking agreement:

  • Funding Contributions:
    • The Federal Government commits an additional $737.7 million from 2025 to 2029.
    • The Northern Territory Government pledges at least $350 million over the same period.
    • This joint effort prioritizes the most disadvantaged schools, ensuring they receive the focus and support needed.
  • Gonski Minimum Funding Levels:
    • The agreement ensures all public schools in the Northern Territory will be fully funded to their Gonski minimum funding levels by 2029.
    • A total of just over $1 billion in extra funding will be allocated between 2025 and 2029.
    • This funding aims to bring NT’s public schools up to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2029.
  • Strategic Goals and Impacts:
    • The SRS is a benchmark estimating the funding required for schools to meet student needs, as recommended by David Gonski in 2011.
    • The NT’s per-student funding under the SRS is significantly higher than all other jurisdictions, addressing the unique challenges and concentrations of disadvantage within the Territory.
    • This agreement is part of broader negotiations for the next National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), tying funding to reforms aimed at helping students catch up, keep up, and finish school.

This strategic investment is not only a testament to the commitment of both governments to elevate education standards but also a direct response to the unique challenges faced by the Northern Territory, including significant concentrations of disadvantage.

Impact on Education Standards

The transformative $1 billion funding agreement is set to significantly elevate education standards across the Northern Territory, with a particular focus on schools and students in dire need of support. Key impacts of this funding include:

  • Addressing the Teacher Crisis:
    • Improved teacher attraction and retention through enhanced resources and support.
    • Reduction in overcrowded classrooms, leading to more effective teaching and learning environments.
  • Boosting Student Attendance and Performance:
    • Targeted initiatives aimed at reversing the trend of spiraling attendance rates, especially in remote areas.
    • Enhanced academic support to lift students to the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) recommended levels.
  • Inclusive Education Support:
    • From 2022, additional funding for students with disabilities, ensuring equitable education opportunities.
    • Mainstream schools to receive a flat rate funding per full-time equivalent student, promoting inclusive practices.

This strategic allocation of funds is not only a response to the unique challenges faced by the Northern Territory’s education system but also a commitment towards closing the educational gap and ensuring every student has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Prioritisation of Disadvantaged Schools

In a decisive move to address educational disparities, the prioritisation of the most disadvantaged schools in the Northern Territory (NT) for funding allocation underscores a strategic approach to rectify long-standing inequities. The NT’s education funding policy, previously based on the effective enrolment method, has notably underfunded remote schools, with some experiencing shortfalls up to $3.4 million annually. This funding model, criticised for its reliance on attendance rather than enrolment figures, has disproportionately affected Indigenous students in remote areas, exacerbating educational disadvantages.

  • Transition to a New Funding Model: A shift towards a three-year weighted average of enrolments methodology promises a more equitable distribution of resources. This change is anticipated to benefit Aboriginal students, those with English as a second language, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and those in remote areas significantly.
  • Impact on Individual Schools: Maningrida College and Shepherdson College in Arnhem Land exemplify the positive shift, each standing to gain an additional $3.4 million annually with the phasing out of the effective enrolment method. Notably, the top eight schools to benefit from this revised funding model are all located in remote Aboriginal communities.

The Australian Education Union’s NT branch has voiced urgent calls for action, highlighting the critical need for immediate change ahead of the proposed 2025 timeline. This urgency underscores the profound challenges faced by the Territory’s education system, marked by remote locations and a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The commitment to prioritise the most disadvantaged schools for additional funding, aiming to reach the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) before 2029, reflects a targeted effort to bridge the educational divide, ensuring a fairer future for all students in the NT.


This ambitious $1 billion funding agreement between the Northern Territory and federal governments marks a significant step forward in addressing the unique educational challenges facing the region. By committing to fully fund NT public schools to their Gonski minimum funding levels by 2029, this strategic investment underscores a profound commitment to elevating education standards and ensuring equity. The focused allocation of resources towards the most disadvantaged schools and the transformative goals set out in the agreement highlight a deep recognition of the systemic issues that have long plagued the Territory’s education system, promising a brighter future for all students.

With the potential to significantly impact the NT’s educational landscape, particularly for Indigenous students and those in remote areas, the implications of this funding are far-reaching. It represents a holistic approach to tackling the issues of teacher retention, student attendance, and performance, and inclusivity in education. As efforts unfold to meet the ambitious targets of the National School Reform Agreement, the Territory stands on the cusp of an educational renewal that could serve as a model for addressing educational disparity. This investment not only promises to transform the educational experiences of countless students but also signals a turning point in the long-term vision for equitable and high-quality education in Northern Territory public schools.

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