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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education


Meeting the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a key focus for our Directorate and cultural integrity across all ACT public schools and the Education Support Office helps to achieve this.

The implementation of cultural integrity means our schools will be:

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Group (the Group) provides advice to the ACT Government on education and training matters that affect Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, parents and communities.

The focus of the group is to engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and provide advice that assists the Directorate in policy formulation, program facilitation and implementation.

The Group is made up of nine members – four Parent Members, four Organisation Members representing local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisations and higher education centres, and one Education Directorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network member.

Roles and responsibilities of the Group include:

  • Promoting and modelling parent and community engagement in education and encouraging parent/caregiver participation in community consultation processes about education through formal and informal conversations, community forums, community yarns, etc;
  • Provide advice to the Minister for Education, ACT Education Directorate (the Directorate) and the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (through the Director General’s regular meetings with the Elected Body Education Representative) on the educational needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Provide insight and advice on key strategic issues, policy formulation and delivery of support services and programs in ACT public schools; and
  • Represent the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community at the National Indigenous Education Consultative Body network and associated meetings and communicate key issues and actions to the Directorate as appropriate.

Secretariat support to the Group is provided by the Education Directorate’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section.

To contact the Group, please email ATSIEAG@act.gov.au.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Reports

The Directorate reports annually on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education in ACT public schools. The reports reflect the Education Directorate’s commitment to meeting the needs and aspirations for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The reports are available from the Publications page

Cultural Integrity in ACT Public Schools

Cultural Integrity describes the environment a school creates to demonstrate both respect and high regard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, knowledge systems and languages; welcome and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and local community members; meet the learning needs and aspirations of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

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 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 families and community;
  • Teaching with Cultural Integrity;
  • Leadership, celebration and environment; and
  • High expectations and successful transitions.
Student Aspirations Program

The Student Aspirations Program promotes participation in leadership opportunities and supports the retention and attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, focusing on pathways and transitions.

Contact the Senior Program Officer on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary and Tertiary Scholarships

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Scholarships are available to Senior Secondary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students interested in a career in teaching or the health field, or in attaining a vocational qualification post-year 12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Scholarships are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled in an approved teaching or health course at either the University of Canberra, the Australian National University or the Australian Catholic University, Signadou Campus.

Contact the Senior Program Officer on (02) 6207 4782 for additional information.

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

The Education Directorate also employs 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (IEOs) who work across 11 ACT public schools. From 2018 IEOs will support schools to build their Cultural Integrity by:

  • Supporting schools to engage with families and community;
  • Supporting teachers to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum;
  • Providing advice and leadership to schools on celebrating significant events and milestones for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Supporting schools to grow a culture of high expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and
  • Facilitating successful student transitions between year levels, between schools and to post school study or work.
Koori Preschool Program

The ACT Directorate’s Koori Preschool Program provides 3-5 year old children with rich, play-based experiences aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework, in a culturally safe environment that includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum. Koori Preschools operate at the following school sites:

  • Ngunnawal Primary School;
  • Kingsford Smith School;
  • Narrabundah Early Childhood School;
  • Wanniassa School; and
  • Richardson Primary School.

Each Koori Preschool operates over two days. In addition to enrolment in Koori Preschool, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can enrol in their local preschool.

The Koori Preschool Program works closely with the ACT Child and Family Centres to develop strong partnerships with families, support parent engagement in children’s learning, increase enrolment and attendance, and link families with other programs that strengthen community and cultural connections.

Children from birth to three years can attend a Koori Preschool when accompanied by a parent or guardian, enabling greater family engagement and supporting transition to formal schooling.

For further information, please contact the Early Childhood Education Officer on (02) 6207 1106.

Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander Students - Attendance and Retention

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students

Increasing attendance, retention and attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a priority for the Education Directorate. The implementation of Cultural Integrity in ACT public schools means that schools will be:

  • culturally safe places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and staff;
  • accountable for meeting the aspirations, learning and wellbeing needs of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students;
  • develop all staff and students’ understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, languages and knowledge systems through professional learning and curriculum delivery;
  • develop and maintain genuine, collaborative and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, families, local community members, service providers and agencies;
  • actively represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions to contemporary society in their physical infrastructure and online presence;
  • support and provide opportunities for all staff to build their knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, languages and knowledge systems; and
  • regularly evaluate and refine their practices to ensure that Cultural Integrity is achieved and retained.

In addition to universal supports available through the Directorate, a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student-specific programs and initiatives are in place to support students.

Student Aspirations

The Student Aspirations Program promotes participation in leadership opportunities and supports the retention and attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, focusing on pathways and transitions between schools and beyond school. Programs facilitated by the Student Aspirations Program include:

Scholarships

The Education Directorate administers two scholarship programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in ACT public schools, totalling $155,000.

  • The Secondary Scholarship Program for students in years 11 and 12 interested in a career in teaching, health or undertaking vocational qualification.
  • The Tertiary Scholarship Program is for students enrolled in teaching or an approved health course at an ACT university.
  • These scholarships are provided to assist students with the costs associated with their studies.

Mura

The Mura Awards initiative recognises student achievement and provides an opportunity for schools to acknowledge the consistent effort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their schooling and to engage with families and the local community. The small bursaries attached to the Mura Awards encourages participation in education by providing some financial assistance for educational expenses such as excursions and uniforms.

Student Aspirations Years 5 and 6 Leadership Day

The Student Aspirations Years 5 and 6 Leadership Day is an annual event for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and a non-Indigenous friend. Students participate in leadership and team building activities and learn about local Aboriginal history and culture. Participants are nominated by their schools based on leadership potential and educational achievement.

Broaden Your Horizons

Broaden Your Horizons is an annual work experience and future employment awareness raising event for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in years 9 to 12. To date, events have been held at the Supreme Court and the National Museum. At the events, participants have had the opportunity to engage with staff from a broad range of occupations and learnt about different pathways into training and employment.

Student Forum

Planning is currently underway for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Forum. Schools will be asked to nominate students in years 5 to 12 to discuss the impact of Cultural Integrity in their schools, what is working well and what the Education Directorate can build on. One session will also focus specifically on attendance and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; what barriers to engagement are faced by students and families; and how the Education Directorate can remove these barriers.

Supporting Education Directorate Staff

The Education Directorate also supports schools and staff to build their capability to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and communities through:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officers

The role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers (IEOs) is to support schools to build their Cultural Integrity to meet the needs and aspirations of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The day-to-day work of an IEO involves building strong collaborative relationships, supporting school leaders and classroom teachers to improve their knowledge and practice of cultural integrity and developing and sourcing teaching and learning resources related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders histories and culture. IEOs also support schools to build relationships and understanding between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students, families and community members.

Professional Learning

Book Clubs

Book clubs operate across Canberra for educators from different schools to come together to share ideas and resources for incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in their teaching. The book clubs also providing a forum for sharing a wide range of experiences including ways of engaging community, working on Country, incorporating Indigenous languages, showcasing school initiatives and promoting other professional learning opportunities.

School Leader C Cultural Immersion

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural immersion program for all School Leader Cs (SLCs) has been rolled out to support the implementation of Cultural Integrity in ACT public schools. The program has been designed to promote awareness and knowledge in cultural integrity and develop the capability of SLCs to lead cultural integrity in their teams. A similar opportunity will be offered to Deputy Principals from 2020.

Engoori

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section began facilitating Engoori workshops for staff within the Education Directorate at the beginning of 2019. Schools are supported by section staff to complete Engoori training.

Historically, Engoori was used as a method of diplomacy between conflicting ideologies and groups and it has been adapted as a means of supporting organisations and schools to build robust cultures that embrace diversity and operate from strengths-based perspectives.

Online Cultural Competence Course

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section facilitate an online cultural competence training through the Centre for Cultural Competence Australia. Participants in the course have demonstrated a variety of ways in which they felt more culturally competent, including a greater willingness to engage in conversations with colleagues about Aboriginal history and enhanced understanding of the impact of trauma and bias/stigma for Indigenous people.

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