Excellence in Aboriginal education takes centre stage

Yesterday's 16th Nanga Mai Awards showcased our brightest and most creative Aboriginal students and dedicated staff working in Aboriginal education

Aboriginal community members and school students and staff standing in front of an indigenous-themed mural.
Image: Team work: Vincentia High School works collaboratively with the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community to improve educational outcomes for their children.

Staff and students from across the State have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to Aboriginal education in NSW public schools at the 16th annual Nanga Mai Awards.

At a virtual ceremony yesterday, 17 outstanding students in fields ranging across academia public speaking, the performing arts and sports were recognised alongside eight dedicated teachers, community leaders and schools..

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said she was proud to share, witness and celebrate the incredible level of educational brilliance displayed within Aboriginal education in New South Wales.

“It is thrilling to see that by embracing the diversity of schools, communities, students and staff that support and champion Aboriginal education, we can continue to fully embody the spirit of Nanga Mai, which is the Eora word for ‘to dream’,” Ms Mitchell said.

NSW Department of Education Georgina Harrisson said the Nanga Mai awards recognised students, staff and community members demonstrating excellence across all areas of education from academic achievement, performing arts and public speaking, through to sport and leadership.

Ms Harrisson said despite the challenging year, there had been a doubling of nominations for the awards.

“I’d like to congratulate all that were nominated for the awards today and commend our amazing recipients,” she said.

“The leadership, creativity and excellence demonstrated is undeniable and is the result of our targeted programs, strong community partnerships and the sheer dedication of our tremendous staff. These combined efforts are integral to the ongoing successes of Aboriginal education in NSW.”

Vincentia High School and Oxley Park Public School were recognised at the awards for their work with community and in raising awareness of Aboriginal culture.

Vincentia High and the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community received the Outstanding School and Partnership Award for their work in increasing Aboriginal student engagement at the school.

Among the initiatives they have implemented are:

  • An Aboriginal Youth Leadership team, which is run by community members who work with and mentor the students.
  • The placement of six school-based trainees within Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and Booderee National Park.
  • Two community spaces/gardens on school grounds, dedicated to members of the Wreck Bay Community.
  • Aboriginal Student forums which focus on students’ needs at school, as well as the support they would like in order to reach their goals post-school.
  • The development of ‘cultural counselling’ in which Elders spend time with students who are at-risk to discuss the importance of education and offer cultural support.
  • The annual NAIDOC Indigenous Careers Expo, held at VHS and hosted by Wreck Bay Community.

Oxley Park Public School received the Outstanding Commitment to Increasing Knowledge and Understanding of Aboriginal Histories, Cultures and Experiences of Aboriginal Peoples Award.

The award recognised the whole-school approach to authentic reconciliation that was developed form the school’s participation in the Nurragannawali Reconciliation Action Plan.

Among the initiatives highlighted was the bilingual use of Darug language throughout the school, bush tucker gardens and Acknowledgement of Country writing workshops.

A boy wearing an aukubra hat smiling broadly
Image: Planned pathway: Kade King organised his own work experience and traineeship to help set him up for a post-school job working with animals.

Kade King, from Vincentia High School and Mekayla Peacock, from Coonamble High School were among the students honoured.

They both were named School-based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year.

Kade is currently completing Year 12 at Vincentia High School, holds a Certificate II in Animal Studies and is undertaking a traineeship with a local farmer.

At the end of Year 9, Kade identified he would like a career in the animal industry and worked out a plan to make it happen.

This involved securing work experience with Nicolstoke Salers in Nowra, working one morning a week and attending TAFE in the afternoon, while also completing his school studies.

Mekayla is an outstanding example of a school-based trainee and is currently completing her Certificate III in Health Services Assistance via TAFE Western Gunnedah (blended learning) whilst working one day per week at the Coonamble Multi-Purpose Service.

Mekayla is determined to be the first person in her immediate family to undertake a university qualification and has her sights set on a nursing degree.

To watch the livestream of the awards and for a full list of winners and their achievements visit the Nanga Mai homepage.

The 16th Annual Nanga Mai Awards is supported by: Aboriginal Education Council, Hicksons Lawyers, University of New South Wales, Teachers Health, Expedite IT, RD Facilities Management, MBB Group, University of Sydney and Curijo.

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