Education is commonly viewed as an important mechanism by which individuals are able to make informed and beneficial choices, at key transitions periods, both for current and future life perspectives. Educational experiences can affect job prospects, help in the acquisition of socially valued qualities of character and behaviour, and support participation in social, cultural and economic life (Zubrick et al. 2006). However, Indigenous Australian populations are often viewed as being at a relative disadvantage within traditional western educational systems, with an emphasis on participation, retention and attainment too often viewed from a deficit perspective (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2009; Devlin, 2009).

Encompassed within a broader research effort through the Higher Education Participation Partnership Program (HEPPP, funded initiative from the Australian Government) results for this research are based on data collected from a series of focus group discussions. This exploratory paper frames a number of significant challenges and obstacles which, in part, play into the educational disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia, in a higher education participation context.