Nanga Mai Awards winners 2020

The winners of the Nanga Mai Awards 2020.

Charlie Molenkamp

Wauchope Public School

Charlie is a delightful young person and the school community is proud of her achievements. Her positive attitude towards school life has to be commended. She conducts herself in an exemplary manner at all times. She is an excellent role model to her peers and the whole school community.

Charlie is the Aboriginal Ambassador for Wauchope Public School and has written and delivered many beautiful and meaningful speeches at school and community events. As Aboriginal Ambassador, Charlie proudly represents her culture to all peers, particularly Aboriginal students who look up to her for guidance

and are encouraged to be proud of their culture, as she is. Charlie has consistently displayed a positive attitude towards her culture and inclusivity at all times.

She prepared and delivered an outstanding speech for the school public speaking competition. This resulted in Charlie achieving first place in her class. She then went on to represent her class in the Stage 3 finals, delivering an exceptional speech in front of peers, staff and community members resulting in her winning Wauchope Public Speaking Stage 3 finals. She is in the school dance group performing at school, Eisteddfods and the Port Macquarie Glasshouse.

Charlie has delivered the Acknowledgement of Country at the Assembly of Excellence in the local Gathang language. Charlie had a key role at the NAIDOC Ceremony where she wrote and delivered a moving speech to acknowledge and communicate her understanding of the theme 'Voice, Treaty, Truth'.

She received an Assembly of Excellence Award for her outstanding attitude and application to all aspects of her learning. Charlie was nominated and successful in receiving a Leadership Award at the Aboriginal Education Excellence Awards for the Hastings/Bago region.


Preston Kelly

Kempsey High School

Preston is a highly visible leader at Kempsey High School, within the Junior AECG and broader school community. He consistently wears his school uniform with pride and has excellent attendance. Preston moves beyond his comfort zone, empowers others to take difficult steps and leads others with courage.

Preston is the Acting President of the Kempsey High School Junior AECG. Preston has a mature manner and works with staff members to coordinate meetings. In this role he has undertaken multiple higher duties liaising with the AECG, Senior Executive staff in the school and wider community groups. Preston has organised school fundraisers to bring awareness of mental health, inclusivity and racism, often volunteering his time after school hours. Preston offers youth perspectives on issues raised in the community at the Macleay Valley Local AECG meetings.

Preston attended the New South Wales Clontarf Academy, Ross Kelly Cup. Preston was an integral part of the squad, leading the team on the field as Captain, ensuring all players had the opportunity to get involved in the game. Preston’s leadership continued off the field through multiple interactions with major National Clontarf partners.

Preston became the first ever Year 7 student to be awarded the Kempsey Clontarf Academy Member of the Year for his outstanding contribution to Kempsey High School and the broader community.

Preston’s leadership qualities have been acknowledged at a regional level, where he was accepted in the University of New England, Oorala Aboriginal Junior Boys Youth Leadership Camp. He was awarded the prestigious Cultural Award for demonstrating a deep understanding of Aboriginal culture and its significance in today’s life.

This award is presented to the Aboriginal student with the highest marks in the 2019 Higher School Certificate

Isabella Pearson

Maitland Grossmann High School

Isabella was proudly named Dux of Maitland Grossmann High School, successfully attaining an ATAR of 96.60. Isabella is a proud Kamilaroi woman with her strong connection to community and culture inherited from her father’s kinship. She credits her success to her family who have been her greatest support, especially her Grandmother with whom she lived during her HSC. Isabella was successful in her university application and is now currently enrolled in the Joint Medical Program at The University of Newcastle.

Isabella started Kindergarten in 2006, at Wagga Wagga Public School. Isabella moved to Forest Hill Public School for Year 3 to 6. With her family, Isabella moved to Maitland where she started Year 7 at Maitland Grossmann High School, completing her Higher School Certificate in 2019.

Isabella was diligent in her studies of Chemistry, Community and Family Studies, Biology, English Advanced, and Maths Standard.

Isabella says that ‘teachers played a pivotal role in her achievement’.


Kyomi Dobson

Briar Road Public School

Kyomi is a proud Yorta Yorta girl. She was in Year 6 at Briar Road Public School and was the School Captain. She received Dux of the school in 2019. Kyomi is achieving an academic level of ‘High’ across all key learning areas and is working well into Year 7 outcomes and progression levels.

She shows incredible strengths in number in Mathematics and spelling in Literacy. Kyomi’s current spelling age is beyond 13 years old. She writes extremely well‐structured texts to meet the

purpose of entertaining, persuading and informing. Kyomi has been reading complex texts at a level of 30+ since Year 2. Her comprehension skills are outstanding and Kyomi has shown enormous growth in speaking and listening, presenting for two consecutive years, a speech for the Yarn Up Public Speaking program at Parliament House Sydney. Kyomi’s NAPLAN results are of an extremely high standard. She achieved results in the top two NAPLAN bands in both Years 3 and 5 and showed growth over these two years, proving her ability to continuously improve and strive for an even higher standard. Kyomi’s numeracy results were of a particular high standard, being at the very top of the 6th band in Year 3 and the 8th band in Year 5.

Kyomi strives for greatness in the classroom and also across whole school settings. She thrives on opportunities to be involved in cultural programs school‐wide. Kyomi attended STEM camps in 2018 where her engagement level was outstanding and highlighted her critical thinking skills. She also represented Briar Road in the Njulgang − Digital Custodians Pilot Project where she designed 3D models and brought them to life through augmented virtual reality. The models were retelling a dreaming story in Dharawal language and her work was showcased by Microsoft at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum. Kyomi is a member of Briar Road’s Junior AECG and confidently leads cultural events with her peers.


Ashli Fryer

Willyama High School

In her English subject, Ashli developed an outstanding multimodal presentation demonstrating a thorough knowledge of genre conventions and ethical use of technology in a virtual reality world.

Ashli achieved the top mark in the Preliminary Mathematics examination and is to be congratulated for her studious effort.

Ashli is a friendly student and a keen musician. She participates in all class activities with enthusiasm and is always willing to contribute to class discussions and performances.

Ashli has been able to display a good understanding of the concepts of music and has achieved a high result in her performance and aural yearly examination.

Her outstanding result in Ancient History was testament to her hardworking nature and drive to succeed. Ashli's performance in the yearly Modern History examination indicated that she knows the course content in depth. She shows a keen interest for Historical Investigation, focusing on local history and World War I.

Ashli has developed her confidence in Physics and frequently contributes to classroom discussions. Ashli collaboratively built a working model of a loudspeaker and gave an exceptional oral presentation with confidence.

Ashli has completed the Macquarie University Walanga Muru Pre‐selection Critical Thinking Unit and is beginning her preparation to start her Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University in 2021.

Alliera James

Ballina Public School

Alliera is an outstanding student displaying commitment to her education by showing high attendance, concentration in the classroom and aptitude in both her academic and sporting ability.

She is a committed learner and displays compassion for others which led to her running as a candidate for School Captain in 2020. She is kind hearted and is often seen helping others in the playground. She is a strong advocate against bullying.

She has received multiple awards, including the school's Stronger Smarter Award and an Education Week Certificate of Recognition for Student Achievement. She was recognised in an article for the local paper, the Northern Star, for her consistency in all areas from Kindergarten.

Alliera is a brilliant sportsperson, selected in the Far North Coast PSSA touch football team. She captained the school’s mixed‐gender rugby league team which won the NRL Legends Rugby League Gala Day held in Casino. She has represented the school in athletics, netball, rugby 7's and cricket at different points throughout the year.

Alliera's great strength is her dedication towards her Aboriginal heritage. She is a member of the school’s Aboriginal dance troupe which performs at various school and community events. She shows a level of maturity and leadership which allows younger members to feel comfortable and confident in their performances. She shows some fine language skills as she consistently seeks out opportunities to participate in Bundjalung language speaking activities. She has progressed so well over the past 18 months that she can confidently deliver an Acknowledgement of Country in language at school assemblies and other events.


Joseph Wilson

Hay War Memorial High School

Joseph is an outstanding student. He is a proud Yorta Yorta representative who strives to do well in all areas of school. He has a commendable work ethic and maintains the highest of standards throughout his schooling. Joseph has been acknowledged for his academic performance as a recipient of the Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin scholarship.

Joseph works independently and as a constructive member of a multitude of groups across the school community displaying teamwork and negotiation skills to reach desired outcomes. Through participation in the Wingara Mura ‐ Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program, Joseph is following his dream of pursuing a career in Law to assist Aboriginal people. He is an active member of the NAIDOC debating team, with achievements including winning the regional title in 2018.

He embraces every opportunity to represent his Aboriginal community, both within the school and whilst representing the Hay Local Aboriginal Land Council. He participates in community NAIDOC activities and delivers the Welcome to Country for school and community events.

Joseph has been an ambassador for the school and community engaging in many active roles including Student Representative Council member, Duke of Edinburgh participation, mentor to primary students and Scout Venturer participant. Joseph is a member of the local PCYC engaging in the locally run Fit for Life program held at Hay War Memorial High School.

Joseph sets an excellent example for all students through his impeccable conduct, attendance and application to school.


Raven Leon‐Naylor

Bega High School

Raven is a proud Indigenous woman of Wiradjuri and Diringanj heritage. She is a very articulate and bright student. She conducts herself to a high standard when she speaks to her peers, teachers and mentors. Raven continues to mentor younger students at school to ensure they are headed in the right direction.

Throughout her primary and secondary education, Raven has consistently displayed the attributes of a driven and successful learner. Her determination to succeed and commitment to excellence, coupled with a naturally strong intellectual ability have combined to see her consistently achieve excellent results.

Throughout her life Raven has had to manage numerous complex family issues. These have compelled her, from a young age, to take on a carer's role for many of her family members including siblings and grandparents. In managing and overcoming these adversities, Raven has acquired wisdom, resilience, kindness and maturity beyond her years.

Raven studied the Aboriginal Studies‐Preliminary course. Her end of year examination results were impressive and she demonstrates a keenness to learn more about First Nations history and issues.

After completing her secondary schooling, Raven aspires to undertake further studies at university, aiming to gain skills and qualifications that will enable her to support her community and culture, while bringing stability and prosperity to her family.

Raven is a remarkable young person.

Thomas Nicholls

Warilla High School

Thomas displays outstanding engagement in academic pursuits, leadership, citizenship and cultural activities through his commitment to his education, culture and community at Warilla High School.

In January 2019, Thomas attended the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science. He led peers from schools across Australia and the Torres Strait Islands to present an inquiry project based on water acidity, which made use of traditional culture methods to preserve water, and scientific research. He was able to lead and present to university lecturers, members of the CSIRO and parents. In July 2019, Thomas attended the UTS Galuwa Engineering and IT experience, developing leadership skills for Aboriginal students in the areas of Engineering and IT. He has been able to use his real‐world experience in assessment tasks and develop his leadership skills in group work and with the wider school community. From these experiences, Thomas has been able to display leadership and role modelling for his peers at Warilla High School.

In 2018 Thomas was awarded the Inspire, Succeed, Excel Aboriginal Education Excellence Award in the category of Numeracy. Through his dedication and commitment to his learning in the area of Mathematics, Thomas was ranked 5th in his cohort for 5.3 Mathematics (Advanced). Thomas used his academic rigor to help inspire other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at his school to engage in learning and pursue knowledge.

Thomas is a quiet, understated student who goes about the business of learning in a respectful manner and is engaged in all areas of his education. His leadership skills over the past eight months have shown growth and this has been displayed by his representation of the school on various levels.


Grace Sayle

Cambridge Gardens Public School

Grace has demonstrated outstanding commitment to engaging in a range of educational and extra‐curricular activities at Cambridge Gardens Public School.

She has been a valued member of the Stage 2 Dance Sport team, giving up many of her play times to train and compete in the Dance Sport Competition. Grace is a member of both the school ensemble dance group and dance team, performing at the Cranebrook Performing Arts Festival and Schools Spectacular. Grace was selected to be a member of the schools PSSA junior soccer team and placed 3rd in the Junior Girls 50m breaststroke event.

Grace actively participates in a range of extra‐curricular activities. She participated in the Primary Music Institute program taking guitar lessons. She has excellent public speaking skills and competed in the schools Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking finals. She represented Cambridge Gardens Public School at the Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre’s Kitchen Gardens School Celebration Event. At this event, Grace competed in a Kitchen Gardens MasterChef Cooking Challenge.

Grace is an enthusiastic member of the school’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group. As one of the leading members of this group, she taught the whole school a traditional Aboriginal song and dance. This item was performed at a school assembly as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations. Grace participated in the NAIDOC Cup as a member of the grand final winning netball team.

Grace is always highly engaged in all learning activities in the classroom and achieves academically at a high standard. She is working above grade level in the English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, PDHPE and Creative Arts key learning areas. She enthusiastically participates in all excursions and incursions offered by the school.


Astrid Graham

Campbelltown Performing Arts High School

Astrid is a phenomenal young Aboriginal woman. From a very young age, Astrid has demonstrated unbelievable determination to help others and serve her community. Beginning by running a toy collection drive when she was seven years old, she has been employing funds donated in exchange for her own home‐made tie‐dyed socks to

support charities. She also uses the funds to create hygiene care packs to deliver to local women’s shelters. Astrid donated additional socks to brighten the day of sick children through the Starlight Foundation. Astrid is currently using her GoFundMe page to raise money for the Children’s Hospital, Shining Stars, Uniting Care and Wilma’s Child Centre as well as donating care packs to Bonnie’s Women’s Shelter.

Astrid’s kind and giving nature has been recognised by the community. In 2018, Astrid was the deserving recipient of the Campbelltown Young Citizen Award, Rotary Excellence Award for Community Service and Leadership and the ACWA Young Person’s Award and Outside Community Service Award. When you ask Astrid why she does these amazing acts of kindness, her response is because she loves knowing that she makes a difference and she just wants to see other people smile.

Astrid is a gifted and humble sportswoman and she has been deeply engaged with athletics and cross country. She also excels in the area of dance and has a deep passion for hip‐hop and contemporary dance. This year, Astrid’s dance crew, The Wolf Pack qualified for the Hip‐Hop International World Championships in the USA. Astrid’s crew came first out of all Australian teams and were the only Australian team to place in the semi‐finals, where they were ranked 20th in the world. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for Astrid and has been achieved through hard work, perseverance and dedication to excel. Astrid is deeply involved in all aspects of her school and community and she continually acts as a proactive and positive role model for the Indigenous and wider community.

Jai Jones

Wauchope Public School

Jai has competed with great enthusiasm and pride at every level of competition for both cross country and athletics. Teachers and members from the school community acknowledge his persistence, giving every event his best.

Jai has participated in cross country events at the school, state and national level. While competing at these levels, Jai received line honours.

Jai competes in AWD (Athletes with a Disability) events making his

achievements even more exceptional. He has maintained an exceptional level of sporting achievements for the last two years. Jai’s achievements for 2019 include:

Cross Country U/10 AWD: School ‐ 1st, Hastings/Camden Haven ‐ 1st, Lower North Coast ‐ 1st, North Coast ‐ 1st, State ‐ 2nd, Nationals 2 km NSW Team ‐ 1st, 2km 3rd, 1000m Time Trial ‐ 1st. Athletics U/10 AWD (100m, 200, 800m, long jump, discus, shot put) School ‐ 1st, (all events) ‐ Para Boy Champion, Hastings/Camden Haven ‐ 1st, (all events) − Para Boy Champion, Lower North Coast ‐ 1st, (all events) ‐ Para Boy Champion, North Coast ‐ 1st (all events) ‐ Para Boy Champion, State ‐ U/10 boys AWD in the following; 100m ‐ 5th, 200m ‐ 4th, 800m ‐ 4th, Discus ‐ 5th.

Jai represented at state athletics in October/November 2018. His results qualified him for the national team in 2019. However, he was only 9 years old and needed to be 10 to qualify. Jai is an exceptional young person and is proud of his culture.


Isaiah Olsen

Lambton High School

Isaiah is a polite and respectful young man who shows outstanding dedication and ability in the sporting domain. He has represented Lambton High School in rugby league, rugby union, football, touch football, AFL, cricket and water polo. He is a competitive individual who always participates to his full ability. Isaiah has been a positive role model for all junior athletes.

Isaiah is a gifted touch footballer who has represented Hunter SSSA, NSWCHS & NSW All Schools. In 2017 he was a leader of the NSW All Schools Touch Football Team and won a silver medal at the Pacific School Games.

Isaiah has shown considerable talent in other football codes. He was selected in the NSWCHS U16 Boys Rugby Union Team and the NSWCHS Rugby Union South Africa Tour, all without ever playing a sanctioned rugby union match.

He is a gifted rugby league player who represented Hunter SSSA in 2017. He was the starting five‐eighth for the Lambton High School University Shield Team that placed 2nd in NSWCHS, despite only being in Year 10 at the time.

In his preferred sport of AFL, Isaiah has been a member of the Sydney Swans Academy Program for the past two years and has played fixtures in the Sydney Swans Men’s Reserve Grade Team.

Isaiah’s greatest legacy will undoubtedly be the design and production of the school’s Aboriginal Sporting Uniforms that are worn by the Open Boys Rugby League Team, Open Boys and Girls Touch Football Teams and the Open Girls Netball Team.

Jacklyn Chalker

Picton High School

Jacklyn loves her culture, dancing and sharing it with others. She started dancing in 2011, after a dance performance by Wagana Aboriginal Dancers left her feeling connected and inspired.

Since then she has danced for numerous dance companies: Wagana, Jo Clancy Contemporary, Ballet Art Katoomba, Bloc Dance Company, and Dust Dance Company; improving her skills and knowledge of culture in some amazing places.

Through dance and Jo Clancy Contemporary, Jacklyn has participated and performed in local festivals and exchange programs, nationally and internationally. She has performed at the Saltwater Freshwater Festival, Homeground Festival, Copenhagen Denmark, Blue Mountains Music Festival, Australian Youth Dance Festival Melbourne and Dance Rites Coastal First Nations Dance Festival Vancouver.

For over 2 years Jacklyn has been a part of Aboriginal dance workshops and has also been selected in 2020 to be a part of Bangarra Dance Theatre. In 2019 Jacklyn was selected to be a part of the Gili Dance Company, where they became a state finalist in 2019. Jacklyn was selected to be a part of the NAISDA program and the Force Majeure program.


Jacklyn currently teaches traditional dance at Picton High School and is the President of Picton High School Junior AECG. This is a huge role as Jacklyn is a mentor and a role model to over 120 Aboriginal students. Jacklyn is a great role model and many students look up to her and aspire to be like her.


Aidan Whitehall

Albion Park High School

Aidan is an amazingly talented Dharawal student, whose musical accomplishments are to be celebrated. He has demonstrated creative flair and steady determination, which has culminated in Aidan entering the national music scene by writing and producing his own music.

Aidan began singing and playing music during primary school, which lead to him writing and producing his own music several years ago. Aidan uploaded his first original song to online platforms

last year, leading him to enter into the Triple J Unearthed High Competition and winning the Indigenous Initiative Award. As part of his prize, renowned Australian artist Josh Pyke and producer J.P Fung agreed to mentor Aidan and work with him to produce a new single.

Aidan has now uploaded four original singles onto various online platforms, which have already been streamed over 200,000 times on Spotify alone. Aidan has wonderfully navigated the balance between his passion, talent and success in music, with his responsibility and work‐ethic toward his education.

In addition to his Triple J award, Aidan successfully auditioned for the Vocal Identification Program (in partnership with KARI), where he sang the National Anthem in Darug language and performed at the Casula Powerhouse Art Centre.

Aidan has also been invited to perform at the Yours and Owls Festival in Wollongong, as well as opening for Mitch Tambo in Sydney and for the Department’s Shoalhaven Indigenous Graduation. Aidan has also been invited to play at the Deadly Hearts Indigenous Music festival in Brisbane in 2020, alongside artists such as Jessica Mauboy and Archie Roach.

Isaiah Reti

Matraville Soldiers’ Settlement Public School

Isaiah (Izzy) is a proud Aboriginal student who has family connections to Bourke, La Perouse and the South Coast of NSW.

Izzy strives to make his mother and family proud and aspires to be a positive role model to his siblings. Public speaking opportunities through school have assisted Izzy with developing his self‐ confidence and self‐determination.

Izzy has presented at events such as school assemblies, Yarn Up,

Young Mob and a NSW Department of Education State Conference. Izzy was selected out of 150 students to present the Acknowledgement of Country at Yarn Up 2019 which was held at NSW Parliament House.

When Izzy was offered the opportunity, he openly expressed how honoured and proud he felt. He has continued to work hard and improve his public speaking skills and in turn, was provided with an opportunity to present at the NSW Education State Conference which involved speaking in front of over 300 Department of Education Executives. Izzy was also lucky enough to be selected to meet The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, MP as part of the NSWPPA Conference.

Through his public speaking, Izzy is an advocate for Reconciliation and aims to educate people about Aboriginal history. Izzy has used public speaking opportunities to share Aboriginal culture, his strong cultural identity and the significance of connection to culture.

Izzy is a respected member of his class and was appointed as School Representative Council (SRC) leader and School Captain for 2020.


Khan Barnes

Dubbo College Senior Campus

Khan is a proud Ngiyampaa man and is well known for his commitment to his cultural heritage. He is a talented student and an accomplished public speaker.

Khan is a local activist and addressed communities in the NSW Far West about waterways and environmental issues from a youth’s perspective. He has advised on current topics and supported smaller communities to voice their concerns.

Khan has conducted youth cultural camps with Youth off the Streets, leading discussions about cultural practices and teaching how to make traditional artefacts.

Further to Khan’s community consultation forum work, he was selected, as a youth delegate, to represent Boomalli in the United States at an Indigenous forum. Khan attended this forum over five days and part of his duties included speaking and delivering a presentation to a global crowd on modern issues facing Australian Indigenous Communities.

Most significant in the audience was Dr Maggie George, owner and primary operator of Indigenous Research Associates, who was the Executive Director for the White House under Obama’s Government. Also significant was Dr Baird Fleming, the Bioparks Chief Executive Manager and a doctor of veterinary medicine. He is known across the globe for his animal welfare advocacy practice, conservation, cultural inclusion and educational initiatives.

Khan’s address and views on modern subjects impacting Indigenous Australians at this forum was highly regarded and saw him offered a personal mentorship by Dr Baird Fleming assisting him to continue his work in Australia.

Craig Ashby

Coonabarabran High School

Craig commenced teaching at Coonabarabran High School in 2017. His passion for his culture and the inspiration he draws from his heritage is evident in all aspects of his teaching.

Craig has been instrumental in developing a Gamilaroi language program that was introduced as the LOTE component for all students in Years 7 and 8. Craig believes through teaching the local language, students are enriched by an understanding of the diversity and complexity of the local Indigenous culture. Language is not just a means of communication but is tied to the land and has a deep, spiritual significance. Gamilaroi and Gamilaoi words are signposted throughout the school. Craig has been able to engage Aboriginal Elders to assist with language classes.

Craig was instrumental in leading NAIDOC Week celebrations which included performing a song he wrote in Gamilaroi language. He has since taught the song to several class groups and has the students singing enthusiastically.

Students proudly give the ‘Welcome to Country’ in Gamilaroi with an understanding of the significance of the words. He has rekindled in local Indigenous youth a pride and respect for their culture. Craig has used the Indigenous language program particularly with boys as a way to connect to their culture and has used Aboriginal Elders as mentors to work with the students helping them regain their sense of identity.

Craig took his Indigenous language program to Yuluwirri, the local preschool where students and pre‐schoolers enjoyed a very hands‐on language experience playing games and learning songs in language. The program also forms part of the transition program for local Year 6 students into high school.

Uncle Russell Saunders

Taree High School

Uncle Russell started his journey working with youth, over three decades ago, as a Community Youth Officer at Purfleet Mission. He has worked extensively with a variety of Elders and community members and collaboratively organised experiences to promote leadership through developing cultural competency; this included countless cultural camps where students were accompanied by positive role models.

Uncle Russell is well respected and revered Elder in Residence at Taree High School, Taree and Wingham Public Schools. He encourages Elders and community to become actively engaged in schools and complement teaching programs. Uncle Russell is an integral part of the school’s day to day life and an excellent role model to all.

Years 11 and 12 Aboriginal Studies classes have benefitted from having Uncle Russell attend lessons. He is able to explain traditional and contemporary concepts being studied. His insights and knowledge have developed a heightened sense of empathy and understanding of what Aboriginal families have endured since colonisation.

Uncle Russell teaches didgeridoo and traditional dance. He began teaching a Gathang Language and Cultural Program in 2017.

A number of murals have been created by Uncle Russell and these are proudly displayed around the school for everyone to enjoy. He worked with staff and students to create artworks and large sculptures outside the front of the school to acknowledge the traditional owners and reinforce the school’s commitment to the recognition of the First Nations People of Taree, the Biripi People.

Carly Woods

Baryulgil Public School

Baryulgil Public School currently has a 100% Aboriginal student population. It is a small school on Bundjalung land to the north‐ west of Grafton. Carly has been the principal at Baryulgil Public School for two years. In this time, school culture has been enriched through a positive, vibrant and culturally competent manner.

Under Carly’s leadership, there has been a significant increase in

school attendance. This has been achieved through the development of strong relationships with the school community and implementing relevant, high expectations of the students.

Carly has strengthened pedagogical practice and has developed strong wellbeing structures that are respectful. Students practice mindfulness before they commence school every day. There are meaningful cultural experiences during the school day, through the strong use of Aboriginal perspectives and Bundjalung language.

Carly has commenced the leadership of a small schools’ initiative to benefit other students in small schools in the Grafton and Clarence Valley Networks. This has included close consultation with ACLO and AECG regarding increasing small school student connectedness to Bundjalung language and culture, delivered by community members.

Carly Woods is committed to closing the gap for Aboriginal students and is a passionate, committed educator.

Suzi Clapham

Albion Park High School

As principal of Albion Park High School, Suzi has played an integral role in positively changing the educational pathway and outcomes of the school’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Suzi is a strong leader who has worked tirelessly to build the capacity of her staff and to create genuine links between the school and the local Aboriginal community in a manner that has positively reshaped the culture of the school.

As a mentor of the school’s Aboriginal Education team and the school’s executive, Suzi has made Aboriginal education ‘everybody’s business’ at Albion Park High School. Suzi has worked to ensure that the school creates the balance between high student expectations and cultural sensitivity. Suzi has made real ground towards ‘Closing the Gap’ with school data showing increases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student learning outcomes, school engagement, retention and post school outcomes.

Suzi has demonstrated exemplary leadership and an ongoing commitment to Indigenous education within the local and wider community. Suzi is Secretary of Juborsay Local AECG and has been an active member for many years. She is a member of the Secondary Principals Council for Aboriginal Education, the Aboriginal Teachers Federation and recently ran a highly successful professional development workshop as a part of the Teachers Federation Annual Aboriginal Education Conference.

Throughout her career in education, Suzi has shown a passion for working with students, staff and community to create better educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Her leadership, high expectations and authentic, genuine approach have made a real difference to the students at Albion Park High School and beyond.

Neil Hartley

Senior Manager, Shared Services, Newcastle

Neil is the Senior Manager, EDConnect Shared Services HR at the Department’s Newcastle State Office, leading a team of over 80 staff in the delivery of payroll, leave and conditions of service. Neil has a genuine personal commitment to education, NSW public schools and our teachers and students. He has worked with the Department for nearly 30 years.

His extensive experience, deep policy knowledge, personable nature and collaborative approach means considered and holistic solutions for both schools and individual employees. He models values of fairness and equity, applying a human perspective and empathy in all dealings and decisions. He is open and honest in all communications and whether a large or small issue, the best possible result for the person or situation is always foremost.


Rod Clarkin

Property and Finance Research Officer, THA

Rod Clarkin joined the DoE HR Teacher Housing team in March 2019 and one of his key responsibilities is overseeing rental subsidies that are paid to staff in rural and remote housing. He attends to the many queries that come to the team. In dealing with these inquiries, Rod does not make any assumptions. He undertakes a thorough investigation, gathers information from all possible sources including data available from our systems, contacts all key stakeholders and discusses with team members or Directors, if required. Rod does not leave any stone unturned, considering fairness, reasonableness and the intention of policy. Once a decision is made, Rod is prompt to resolve matters. He’s always willing to assist, especially those teachers and staff in remote and rural locations, easing their circumstances and helping them settle into their chosen location.

Queanbeyan Public School

Queanbeyan Public School was recognised for reconciliation excellence in education in 2017, being the recipient of the inaugural National Narragunnawali Award, awarded by Reconciliation Australia.

The school has developed deep and broad relationships with community which is in an ongoing commitment to respectful and

productive partnerships with students, staff, parents and the local Aboriginal community.

Queanbeyan Public School is committed to providing leadership opportunities for Aboriginal students to maintain their voice in educational programs, and to strengthening cultural identity and nurturing self‐awareness, confidence and wellbeing of Aboriginal students.

Professional learning is a school priority, ensuring all staff are growing in their understanding and appreciation of First Nations peoples and have built a culturally inclusive learning landscape to teach all students, staff, parents and community.

The school’s Aboriginal Education Group works with community to deliver high quality professional learning, culturally appropriate teaching and learning programs and plans for the celebration of significant events. This is underpinned in Queanbeyan Public School’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Queanbeyan Public School has adopted the coolamon, which in Ngunnawal culture is a symbol of the school's role in caring for and carrying the hopes, dreams and future endeavours of each child in the school community.

Wayeela Cooinda Preschool

Nowra East Public School

Wayeela Cooinda (Our Happy Place) Preschool is a NSW Department of Education Aboriginal designated preschool, located within the grounds of Nowra East Public School, with 80% Aboriginal and 20% non‐Aboriginal student enrolments. The objective of the preschool is to provide Aboriginal children from the local community with the opportunity to access a quality early learning program and to support children with their transition to Kindergarten.

Recently the preschool underwent an Assessment and Rating process. The preschool was commended on its achievements in Exceeding National Quality Standard. In particular, the deliberate and considered approach to build trusting relationships which engage and support each child to feel secure, confident and included. This approach promotes a sense of belonging for children and families.

Educators regularly engage in critical reflection on children’s learning and development to strengthen the educational program based on the principles outlined in the National Early Years Learning Framework, Belonging, Being and Becoming.

The preschool educators work together to promote a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging for all children, families and the community, in particular through cultivating a deep respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture.

The preschool educators support families in their parenting role with open communication, building a shared understanding of children’s learning and participation.

Uncle Ossie Cruse

Eden Local AECG

Eden Marine High School

Uncle Ossie is described by many as a quiet leader with profound knowledge and the ability to bring people together for a better cause. Uncle Ossie has campaigned for the rights and education of

First Nation Peoples for over 50 years. He started this long battle with the 1967 referendum and continues the fight today with the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Uncle Ossie’s passion for educational rights stems from his own educational experience.

Uncle Ossie has been an integral part of Eden Marine High School bringing change, acceptance, belonging and uniting the school community as one. He supports NAIDOC celebrations and local South Coast Language classes. He shares knowledge of local history, the Stolen Generations, the referendum and the importance of a Makarrata for all First Nation Peoples.

Uncle Ossie, with the school community, is building a youth camp and Jigamy Farm as a cultural shared space and education centre for all to enjoy. Uncle Ossie has built the capacity of teaching staff at Eden Marine High School to understand and respect community protocols. Teachers walk alongside Uncle Ossie listening, learning and valuing his cultural knowledge.

Uncle Ossie is a highly respected and remarkable Elder who has contributed significantly to strengthening the Aboriginal cultural knowledge of staff and students within the school and the wider community.

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