Where community and culture coincide

Aboriginal principals of NSW public schools have featured on prime-time television about the importance of community relationships.

27 August 2020
An Aboriginal teenager painting in an art studio.
Image: Senior student Adrian from Menindee Central School.

Both Tammy Anderson, principal of Briar Road Public School, and Fiona Kelly, executive principal of Menindee Central School, are leading schools they attended as students.

The principals and their students were interviewed by ABC TV’s '7.30’ about how they embed Aboriginal culture into everyday school life and reach out to develop strong relationships with parents, carers and community.

Ms Anderson said her primary school was where she had positive experiences with education and saw Aboriginal people who were successful.

“My hopes for children ... and particularly Aboriginal students, as we move into the next decade, would be around being able to compete in a mainstream environment but with your identity, your heritage and pride out in the forefront,” she said.

Ms Kelly, who leads a school from Kindergarten to Year 12 where almost all senior students find a pathway into work or further study, said there had been a dramatic change in community partnerships since she was at school.

“There wasn’t the relationships that we are so focused on now. It was more like the teachers were just there. We were the students. Teachers told you what to do. You did it,” she said.

Professor Mark Rose, from Deakin University’s Indigenous Strategy division, said many Aboriginal parents had negative experiences in their school days so reaching out to communities was vital.

“It's working hand in hand with the community, listening and committing to the needs and aspirations. That's where success will be,” he told 7.30.

In NSW public schools there are 69 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander principals, 276 school executives, 1,300 classroom teachers and 1,150 school support staff [as at June 2019].

NSW Education prioritises the permanent employment of Aboriginal teachers across all schools and provides an annual scholarship for 80 Aboriginal applicants to study teaching.

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