Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education

Cultural Integrity in ACT Public Schools

Cultural integrity describes the environment a school creates to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and to welcome and engage their families and communities. Every school’s story and community is unique, so cultural integrity will mean something different to each school. Cultural integrity ensures all students have opportunities to develop their knowledge and appreciation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, cultures and languages

We are creating positive learning environments high expectations in our schools, who will work with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and students to identify their cultural integrity priorities.

From 2018 ACT public schools are progressing in the next stage providing support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Cultural integrity represents a break from the negative discourse that has dominated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education for many years. Cultural Integrity is positive and constructive, that benefits the whole school community through developing knowledge and understanding. ACT school leaders will be change agents building a culture of high achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and ensuring improved cultural integrity is a priority.

Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander School Communities

Current research strongly suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enjoy greater success when they can see their perspectives in culture and languages reflected in the curriculum and school environment. People come from all over Australia and the world to live and work in Canberra, which means school communities – including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families - vary greatly. That’s why students and all school staff benefit from knowing their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and school leaders learning how that community would prefer to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and shared history reflected in their local school. Engaging with families and community is integral to building the cultural integrity with each community.

The fact sheet ‘Engaging With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families’ can be accessed at https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/807432/150897-Engaging-with-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-Families.pdf.

The Cultural Integrity Continuum

From 2018 schools have access to a new suite of resources, framed around a self-assessment continuum. The continuum has drawn on the latest evidence and research, which says that to build their Cultural Integrity schools should focus on four dimensions:

  • Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and community;
  • Teaching with Cultural Integrity;
  • School leadership and environment; and
  • Transition pathways and high expectations.

Student Aspirations Program

The Student Aspirations Program focuses on career pathways and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in years 5 to 12. The program promotes leadership and pathway opportunities through team building activities and events.

Contact the Student Aspiration Coordinator on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

Scholarship Programs

Every year, a number of secondary scholarships are offered to students who wish to pursue careers in teaching, the health field or a vocational qualification. Year 10 students can apply for a two year scholarship for years 11 and 12 valued at up to $4,000 per year.

Students enrolled in an approved teaching or health degree at the University of Canberra, Australian Catholic University (Signadou Campus) or the Australian National University, are eligible to apply for scholarships worth up to $20,000.

Contact the Student Aspiration Coordinator on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (IEO’s)

A major aspect of the IEO role is to support schools to build their Cultural Integrity. This is done by assisting schools to build strong relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and community members, and by working with schools and staff to develop their Cultural Integrity skills and practices. IEO’s also assist schools to implement programs that build the knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures for staff and students.

Koori Preschool Program

The ACT Education Directorate’s Koori Preschool Program provides early childhood education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3-5 years. Children under the age of three are welcome to attend when accompanied by a parent or adult carer.

The Koori Preschool Program provides opportunities for children to engage in rich play based experiences fostering a love of learning, student well being, transitions to school and the development of early literacy and numeracy skills. Within each program there is a strong focus on culture and identity. Collaborative partnerships between families and educators guide children's understandings in a culturally safe and inclusive learning environment.

The Koori Preschool Program partners with other organisations, such as the ACT Child and Family Centres, to provide families with access to a comprehensive range of services that support children’s learning and build family and community capacity.

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