Instruction by elders and family was the experience of only a minority (16%) of the Storylines artists who responded to the survey question on Training.
Another 6% were “self-taught”. Rather, like their non-Indigenous counterparts, Storylines artists tended to be considerably better educated and qualified than rest of the Indigenous population, only 19% of whom had completed Year 12 at the time of the 2006 Census. By contrast 35% of the 304 people who indicated their educational qualifications had university degrees, including post-graduate degrees. A further 37% had completed TAFE or College of Advance Education qualifications, making a total of 72% with post-secondary training – well ahead of the general Australian population, let alone the Indigenous population. This is despite the older age profile of the Storylines sample – in the 2006 Census, younger Indigenous persons were found to have completed a higher level of education than older Indigenous persons, with only 8% of all persons in the Indigenous population as a whole aged over 55 years having completed Year 12.
The frequency of TAFE courses in the training data reflects a very particular set of circumstances. There were many individuals amongst the Storylines artists who, having been denied the opportunity to gain professional qualifications and sustainable employment opportunities in their early life, had reached middle age with very few skills that would lead to employment. The establishment of Aboriginal units in TAFE colleges located in rural and regional areas made it possible for these individuals to acquire new skills and find a fresh focus in life. Furthermore, the fact that these units accommodated Aboriginal people’s experience and perspectives in new ways meant that in many cases there was a validation and enhancement of the skills and knowledge that these individuals had acquired through life that had not previously been valued.
TAFE has thus often played both an instigative and consolidatory role with respect to Storylines artists’ practice later in life. Caroline Narkle, for instance, acknowledged the impact of her years of study at Great Southern TAFE in Katanning and Mt Barker and wanted her biography to express her gratitude for the support and encouragement she received. TAFE attendance also accounts in part for the mobility of many of the artists in the Storylines catchment: many artists have moved temporarily to towns in which a TAFE college is located in order to study.
What became clear to the Storylines team was the value and importance of alternative forms of training, whether workshops, short courses, residencies, mentoring programs etc. particularly for regional communities and people in isolated areas, and ‘mature-age’ artists for whom tertiary education is not accessible. We encountered a range of such programs that had brought fantastic energy and vitality to regional art production. For example, the Kidogo Institute in Fremantle, WA has organised residencies and art courses from which dozens of Noongar artists have benefited, and ensures the artists observe and support each other’s practice.
 See David Throsby and Beverley Thompson, But what do you do for a living?: A New Economic Survey of Australian Artists ( Strawberry Hills, NSW: Australia Council, 1994).
 These figures might be even higher if we take into consideration the number of ‘stubs’ in the sample: artists might not have mentioned TAFE or CAE qualifications in putting together a biography for a catalogue or art prize entry, from which stub information was often drawn.