Video transcript: The community is a priority at Taree High School

Allison Alliston - Executive Principal, Taree High School

I'm Allison Alliston. I'm the executive principal at Taree High School, Mid North Coast of New South Wales, north of Newcastle, south of Port Macquarie.

We have 900 students at the school and a support unit. 13% Aboriginal students. We're a Connected Communities school, so we have parents and Elders who have a decision-making role in the school.

So when we look at the school plan, we have a monthly meeting where they check off that we're meeting our milestones, which is great, and it's a genuine consultative process. That has actually changed the trust level of our Aboriginal community in the high school.

We have a series of programs that are embedded in everyday school life. The mentor of that is Uncle Russell Saunders, who's our Elder-in-residence.

Uncle Russ (Russell Saunders) - Community Liaison Officer/Elder in Residence

Myself, growing up, I was very uncomfortable around non-Aboriginal people. I was 14 and a half years of age when I left school and I went out into the world and I got a big shock like every other unfortunate child who's not educated.

After a swim, I used to grab a lump of clay out the bank and I'd lay on the log there drying in the sun and make things, and so somehow this drive for art was in me.

Allison give me a call on the phone and said that "We want you to come in our class" because of my art and my skills and because of my contact with the school, "But not only that, we want as an Elder-in-residence."

I just love the opportunity to sit in here in this room and talk to the kids about my life, about the people of this valley, the Biripi people, my knowledge I can share with them and, you know, the stolen generation, racism. Talk about country, culture.

We do a Brospeak program and I work with young Josh, Aboriginal worker here, and a teacher, and we take our Indigenous boys out on country, and I share with them the land, the culture, language. We've got our language back now, which we're proud of.

Allison Alliston - Executive Principal, Taree High School

That program, that engages agencies and organisations like National Parks and Wildlife, Hunter New England Health, Biripi Aboriginal medical services, as well as the local Aboriginal men's group, Elders and parents.

Eileen McGrady - Aboriginal Education Officer

I'm the Aboriginal Education Officer here at Taree High and I'm one of a team of five to six people who look after the kids from Year 7 to Year 12.

For the girls, we're running Sistaspeak, of which I'm a coordinator, and I do that in line with Alison Last, who's a teacher. The main basis is empowerment for young women.

Ali Haigh - School Engagement Officer, Manning Regional Art Gallery

We joined together to do a Sistaspeak program. And that means the girls come out of school and into the gallery facilities to make work, and it's kind of a mentorship program that enables them to work from our space rather than the school environment.

This year, we did a program with them and we did some critical thinking and creative exercises around what did they want to say. You know, their theme "Because of her, we can..." You know, who was that 'her' in their life and what did that mean and how could we portray that through painting.

Eileen McGrady - Aboriginal Education Officer

Some of the girls don't have the support they need at home, so we try and give that support to them here at school.

Allison Alliston - Executive Principal, Taree High School

Both the programs are about developing a sense of strength amongst our Aboriginal students, which then they go and share with their non-Aboriginal peers, so it's a way of embedding in all kids the Biripi culture.

End transcript.

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