Department of Education

Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education

Supporting the AIEO

Supporting the AIEO

Strategies for effectively supporting AIEOs include:

  • Communication, consultation and collaboration - regular meetings should be held with the AIEOs to discuss successes, challenges and solutions.
  • Professional learning linked to school goals.
  • Inclusivity, respect and acknowledgment so, “They are a part of the school staff and are treated accordingly”.
  • Timetable flexibility - this acknowledges the complexities of the AIEO’s role.
  • Provision of resources for AIEOs to carry out their work. The resources will vary depending on the roles of the AIEO and can include:
    - reimbursement when the AIEOs use their own vehicle for work purposes. [Use of a personal vehicle is a tax deduction when used for work purposes. When using their own vehicle, AIEOs must obtain the principal’s approval, have third party insurance, have a current driver’s license and maintain a log-book. If transporting students, principal and parent/caregiver approval must be obtained];
    -access to an office to allow for privacy for interviews when liaison meetings are held at school;
    - a telephone for parent and community contact;
    - a work space of their own. A place to store their resources and to undertake their paperwork gives the AIEO a sense of belonging and professionalism;
    - access to a computer for reporting purposes, for communicating with some parents and community members and liaising with external agencies; and
    - a budget allocation may be desirable, particularly when planning for cultural events such as NAIDOC Week.
  • Regular communication with the AIEO and discussion about expectations of the job.
  • Ensuring that all staff in the school understand the role of the AIEO.
  • Understanding that family and cultural expectations may be impacting on the AIEO. For example, in the AIEO review, one principal commented that one of the AIEOs would not enter some classes. After informal discussions, the principal realised there were people of certain skin groups in the classes with whom the AIEO could not mix. Some restructuring with the AIEO solved the problem.
  • Finding a mentor in the school or in the network. An experienced AIEO is the best option, but it could be any member of staff who is experienced and has knowledge and understanding of the AIEO program and their role. The Aboriginal education team can help with accessing mentoring and support.
  • Rewarding effectiveness. The AIEO, like the other staff at the school, needs to know when they are on track and have done a task successfully, as well as being advised when they are not. It is possible to acknowledge the work of AIEOs either privately or publicly. In situations where AIEOs would be shamed by public acknowledgment, an option is to praise them in private and/or write a letter of commendation. Public praise, through school newsletters and comments at meetings, is appropriate in many contexts.
  • Working together. The AIEO should be given the opportunity to deliver good news to parents. When issues arise with a student and the AIEO thinks a home visit is necessary, this should be undertaken with another member of the school staff. The presence of a staff member with the AIEO shows the parents that the school is concerned about the education of the student, and that the work of the AIEO is valued.
  • Acknowledging that at times, being related to the community can create challenges for the AIEO. Supporting the school to address attendance and behaviour issues can conflict with the AIEO’s position in the community. A sensitive and supportive approach can assist to resolve these issues.
  • Not being related or from the local area can also present challenges. A lack of knowledge of local Aboriginal history, sites, language, stories, family groups and cultural etiquette can create a barrier to effective relationships.
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Ensuring effectiveness

Some of the essential attributes of an effective AIEO are:

  • good communication skills in Standard Australian English and, preferably, local dialects;
  • clear understanding of the AIEO role within the school;
  • commitment and reliability;
  • support and respect;
  • cultural and community links;
  • knowledge, understanding and skills;
  • have undertaken training relevant to the position; and
  • the capacity to work independently and with the school administration.

On appointment, AIEOs may not possess all of these attributes. It is important that the school provides induction, support, training and mentoring for the AIEO to develop these attributes. The role of the school leader in facilitating this process is essential to ensuring program effectiveness.

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Principals have an obligation to ensure all AIEOs receive induction and training when they commence employment, for short term and permanent positions.

Some points to be considered in the AIEO induction include:

  • Timing. Induction should be carried out immediately on appointment. The Staff Induction Policy [Sign In] describes the process.
  • On-line training [Sign In] is available for AIEOs
  • Literacy, including computer literacy, may be an issue for some AIEOs. On-line induction may not be the best method for inducting new staff and, if this is the case, additional support or alternative induction processes may be required.
  • Role clarity

• Even if the new appointee is experienced, schools differ in their processes and practices and there may be aspects of the job in the new position that are different.
• If the appointee has no prior experience, learning the requirements of both the job and the processes and practices of the school are essential.
• Awareness of the requirements of the job is essential to carry out the role effectively. For example, during induction the AIEO should be alerted to the expectations of performance management. An awareness of measures to be taken to evaluate the AIEO’s role will enable them to plan for positive outcomes.

  • Commitment

• Induction contributes to the AIEO’s commitment to the role and the goals of the school. It demonstrates the role is viewed as important and an essential part of the school.
• The process of induction builds a shared vision, shared responsibilities and agreed strategies for improving Aboriginal education in the school.

Induction may include several steps:

  • Regional or network level induction.
  • School leaders outlining the overall role of the AIEO in the school.
  • A hard copy of school information in an induction booklet should be provided.
  • Teachers describing the classroom role and planning processes. At this stage it may be identified that there are skills and training requirements.
  • Experienced AIEOs can provide valuable information through discussion and online communication with the new appointee or through work shadowing. Work shadowing may be possible either in the school if there is more than one AIEO or at another school.
  • The principal can notify the regional Aboriginal education team when a new AIEO is appointed. It is helpful to invite a representative to the school as a way of introduction to the regional support network. Aboriginal education teams can provide information about the AIEO job requirements. The teams provide support and training.

Principals need to ensure that, on induction, AIEOs are given access to the Staff Conduct and Discipline policy and the Code of Conduct. A useful resource is the Department’s How to Comply with our Code of Conduct.

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Training is essential for AIEOs to acquire the range of skills and knowledge required to perform their job effectively. Go to Training on the AIEO web page for further information. Professional learning to obtain a formal qualification is available for AIEOs under the AIEO Professional Learning program.[Sign In]

Paid study leave for up to five hours a week is provided for under the Miscellaneous Government Conditions and Allowances Award (1992) for AIEOs undertaking an approved qualification. Schools should negotiate workable arrangements with AIEOs to suit their contexts and facilitate study arrangements where applicable.

AIEOs undertaking TAFE certificate studies will be eligible to have their enrolment and resource fees paid through the school on proof of enrolment. Schools will complete the AIEO Professional Learning Acquittal Form and will be reimbursed for the cost of the fees via the School Grant Gateway.

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Mentoring and support

AIEOs need to be included and valued as a part of the school team. A range of strategies contribute to this, particularly by providing support and coaching for AIEOs in their various roles.

Mentors can help AIEOs to more quickly acquire an understanding of the expectations and practices of the role. Principals may identify suitable mentors in the school such as experienced AIEOs or teachers who have experience in working with AIEOs. Mentors can help make the transition to the AIEO role easier for staff new to the position.

Work shadowing is a useful strategy for socialising newcomers into the role. Newly appointed AIEOs can spend time with AIEOs at other schools and accompany them during their daily work to acquire an understanding of the scope and complexities of the day-to-day role.

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Improving performance

Improving the performance of AIEOs will increase the effectiveness of an AIEO program within a school.
Some of the underperformance issues raised in the review of the AIEO program include:

Issue Strategies to address
Some AIEOs may not attend work regularly or punctually. As a consequence, some teachers may feel they are unable to rely on the AIEO’s support in the classroom and then do not prepare work for the AIEO. This has the potential to impact further on the engagement of the AIEO.
Developing a positive school environment can help to address this issue. This involves:
  • the whole staff involved in cultural competency training;
  • encouraging all staff to undertake professional learning to improve their skill sets; and
  • supporting AIEOs to undertake the Certificate III and IV Education Support professional learning program. This will help build their skills and competencies to support the teaching and learning programs
Role performance:
Some AIEOs do not carry out their role as expected. This might include passivity or shyness in the classroom, not taking initiative, and not undertaking community visits.
School leaders should find out why this is happening and implement support strategies. Mentoring, work shadowing, performance management and professional learning are useful in addressing this issue.
Role specification does not match school needs:
The tasks the AIEO performs may not match the needs of the school. This is particularly an issue when schools change direction in their policies and student profile.
Negotiation and professional learning can assist existing AIEOs to adapt to the changes.
Training is unable to remedy issues:
While professional learning can address many issues, there are some aspects of the AIEO’s role that are not fixed by attending a training course. For instance, if the AIEO is given the responsibility of liaising with the community but has not established a connection with the local people, it may be difficult to change the situation. Similarly, if AIEOs are expected to support literacy or numeracy instruction, their formal education levels will impact on the level of support they can provide to students.
In such situations, in consultation with the AIEO, the allocated tasks should match his or her skills and plans should be made to build capacity in the identified areas.

Some of the underlying causes that can lead to underperformance were identified in the program review. These included:

  • inadequate support from staff in their jobs;
  • lack of planning time for preparation of lessons;
  • limited direction by teachers;
  • teachers did not listen to AIEO advice for working with specific students, so they lost heart and no longer provided support;
  • insufficient training for AIEOs;
  • poor selection processes; and
  • perceptions of the AIEO role.
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Performance management

The Department of Education defines performance management as, “the formal and informal continuous process of evaluating and supporting an employee’s performance in the workplace.” Employee performance has the following elements:

  • clarity and a focus on the expectations of employees;
  • a demonstration of accountability;
  • quality and timely feedback;
  • access to professional growth and development opportunities; and
  • decisions and actions that are impartial, transparent and capable of review.

For the employee performance process to work effectively, the line manager needs to:

  • clearly outline the expected skills and knowledge required of the employee;
  • ensure goals within performance management are specific, measurable, realistic and achievable within the timeframe; and
  • during induction, inform new employees of the Department’s performance management practices.

Where the program is effective:

  • there is a strong relationship between the principal and the AIEO;
  • Aboriginal education has a high profile in the school;
  • employee performance is managed by principals, deputies or heads of department;
  • the responsibilities and expectations are clear; and
  • feedback and goal setting comes from an educational rather than an administrative perspective.

These elements support effective and improved performance of AIEOs.

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Retaining AIEOs

There is a relatively high turnover among AIEOs and it is in the school, community and students’ interests to strive to retain experienced staff in the school. A key factor in retention is the inclusion of AIEOs as a valued member of staff through:

  • a sense of belonging;
  • acknowledgement of work well done;
  • participation in a range of school activities;
  • achieving goals and experiencing success;
  • training to gain skills for effective participation in the work of the school team;
  • a sense of ownership of the area of work; and
  • a commitment to improving Aboriginal student outcomes.

Principals provide the following advice:

Outline the importance of their role to students, staff, community and to themselves. Outline how they are role models for the coming generation. Give them responsibilities in areas in which they are competent – sharing their culture, organising cultural trips which are then integrated into the classroom environment.

One of the things that I’ve had success with, with the AIEOs (retention) that I’ve employed, is making sure they’ve got someone in the administrative team as their point of port of call, and using a coaching model with them, so that they’re really supported to be a leader in the school. I make sure that they understand the JDF and they understand that they’re not an assistant. I suppose elevating their profile within the school and making sure that they’re aware of that level of importance.

Supporting the AIEO

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