Can Boarding Be Better? Ethical Dilemmas for Policy-Makers, Education Providers and Evidence-Makers

John Guenther, Sam Osborne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Boarding schools have played an important role for much of Australia’s colonised history. But in recent years attention has shifted to the role of boarding schools particularly for rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The Northern Territory Government’s 2014 Review of Indigenous Education (The Wilson Review) supported boarding options ahead of local secondary provision for rural and remote students. Scholarship programs are often touted as the solution and while articulated policy on boarding is hard to find, financial support for boarding is not so hard to find. But what has been the impact of this growth in demand? How can it be that so little policy has resulted in so much activity and so much evidence of potential harm? This chapter argues from a theoretical position that the high hopes for boarding have often not materialised because of the hegemonic policy paradigms (or belief systems), which fail to take account of evidence, and which in turn have the potential to create ethically questionable policy. We also challenge researcher ethics in the ‘site’ of boarding. The lessons from this discussion extend to other sites or places and it could be that boarding is one place among many in the rural/remote context where these tensions occur. The chapter concludes by suggesting that critical consideration of the consequences of potentially unethical policy is the first step in moving towards ethically sound boarding provision.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRuraling Education Research
Subtitle of host publicationConnections Between Rurality and the Disciplines of Educational Research
EditorsPhilip Roberts, Melyssa Fuqua
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811601316
ISBN (Print)9789811601309
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian boarding schools
  • rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • ethical dilemmas


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