Attracting and retaining a culturally diverse teacher workforce

The challenge

There is widespread recognition and evidence that the teacher workforce is in crisis with high rates of attrition, reduced domestic applicants into initial teacher education (ITE), and a significant number of hard-to-staff schools particularly in the public sector. Less often mentioned in Australia are stark discrepancies existing between the cultural diversity of the general population, the student population and the teaching profession.

The lack of cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia’s teacher workforce is a cause for concern among state and federal governments, as well as teacher, parent, and principal organisations. Diversifying the teacher workforce is important because it may help enhance the sustainability of the workforce. It can also foster a more inclusive and supportive learning environment, leading to social, emotional, and academic benefits for students.

The path to a cultural and linguistically diverse workforce is fraught with many challenges including supply and demand issues:

  • On the supply side, there is little research as to why teaching is not a preferred profession among senior secondary students, particularly students from minority groups. While 8 per cent of Australian students speak a language other than English (LOTE) at home, only 8.9 per cent of primary teachers and 10.8 per cent of secondary teachers are of LOTE background. Significantly, the 2023 Closing the Gap statement showed that over six per cent of students but only two per cent of registered teachers are First Nations students.
  • On the demand side, there are a number of factors that influence who teaches, including the selection processes for ITE, including graduate assessments, and structural issues such as the level of school autonomy in each state and employers who may act as gatekeepers into the profession. There is evidence that teachers from minority communities may experience discrimination once they start working schools.

This Deakin partnership with teacher, parent, and principal organisations will investigate the factors impacting on the cultural diversity of the teacher workforce in Australian public schools.

Project overview

The research team will investigate why the teacher workforce does not mirror the diversity of Australia’s First Nations and multicultural population through snapshot surveys, targeted interviews, focus groups, case studies and stakeholder workshops.

The objectives include:

  • To investigate perceptions of the teaching profession in Australia and in particular secondary student aspirations for teaching relative to other professions.
  • To explore how cultural and linguistic diversity are addressed in ITE programs and identify potential barriers and enablers to improve the experience and retention of culturally diverse and Indigenous ITE students.
  • To examine the structures and practices of selection of teachers into schools and experiences of cultural and linguistic minoritised and First Nations teachers in the first year of teaching and identify systemic and professional supports for principals and teachers to enable culturally responsive and safe workplaces.
  • To inform policymakers, organisations and practitioners, by identifying policies, strategies and interventions to improve the diversity of the teaching profession.


The project aims to build intercultural capacity within education systems by providing teachers, parents, students, Indigenous educators and their communities, the partner organisations, universities and policymakers with comprehensive evidence and strategies to inform planning, policies and practice for developing a culturally and linguistically diverse teacher workforce.

Through guides, reports, research publications and videos to be shared with key stakeholders and the public, the project will advance knowledge and provide insights into strategies related to student career choices and the creation of intercultural school and workforce cultures and culturally safe schools.