These secondary schools are often the only option for remote communitty students.

Indigenous Boarding Provider grants were extended in last year’s Budget, but were intended to be replaced by a longer-term, sustainable solution to the funding shortfall for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boarding students.

However, the outcomes of the Boarding Design Review announced in last year’s Budget are unknown, leaving schools and students in limbo.

ISA CEO Graham Catt said some boarding schools had warned they would have no choice but to close without the grants, which were established in 2021 to help keep boarding students engaged in schooling and improve education outcomes.

“This funding, which was continued in last year’s Budget, has been critical to schools’ ongoing ability to operate,” Catt said.

“What these students and their families need now is certainty they can stay at school.”

The Independent sector is the largest provider of boarding school education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and many of the 2335 students are from remote communities where education is only available until the end of primary school.

Wesley Meurant, principal of Yirara College in Alice Springs, the largest Aboriginal boarding school in the country, with the capacity to support 220 students.

He said losing the funding would have a devastating effect.

“The prospect of losing recurrent funding would strike a fatal blow at the heart of Indigenous education for the most disadvantaged students in the country, and all but ensure a hopeless catalyst for the death of an already widening ‘Close the Gap’ initiative,” Meurant said.

“Boarding school options in the heart of the nation are critical in supporting educational equity for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students seeking to further their educational opportunities.

“In assisting with the ongoing operations of such schooling options the recurrent funding provided under the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) has formed something of a foundation that ensures educational choice for First Nations families.”

Across Australia independent schools educate more 19,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including 2335 boarding students.