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Australian Capital Territory finalist
Robert (Bob) Pastor
Jervis Bay School, Jervis Bay Territory
Through Bob Pastor’s leadership, extensive experience and whole-of-school approach to teaching and learning, the Jervis Bay School community has experienced improved student engagement, achievement and attendance.
As the principal at the school, Bob has led considerable change. He has introduced a strong focus on literacy and numeracy which has seen student achievement in spelling in Years 3 – 5 increase to 28.2 per cent above the ACT average; and other literacy standards extended beyond the state average. He has developed a professional learning community characterised by staff who feel their practice is supported and encouraged to innovate to better meet the needs of their students. He has built resources where needed and emphasised the need to reconnect the school with local Indigenous communities. He negotiated to put a local language program in place and has incorporated the area’s Indigenous history and culture into the school’s teaching so that students have a sense of the place where they live.
Beyond the school community, Bob’s energy and commitment is also evident. He is a key and founding member of the Learning 4 Life Partnership, which is an umbrella organisation vested with enabling communication and coordination of initiatives within the Jervis Bay Territory to meet the needs of Indigenous students.
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New South Wales finalist
Westdale Public School, Tamworth
Karen Doyle has led the creation of a harmonious and high-achieving environment for Westdale Public School’s 460 students, a quarter of whom are Aboriginal. Westdale Public was one of the first schools in NSW to fly the Aboriginal flag, acknowledgement of the generations of Aboriginal families who have passed through the campus since it was established a century ago on the western edge of Tamworth.
As principal, Karen’s visionary plan was to move the school forward with a particular focus on ICT, engagement of Aboriginal students and families, implementation of the Aboriginal Education Policy and targeted professional learning for staff. Through her vision and related policies and structures, she implemented and sustained an array of programs for Aboriginal students which have resulted in significant improvements in literacy and numeracy in particular, as well as other achievements in the arts, sport, wellbeing and school partnership. She has developed inventive approaches to using data to assess progress and shape developments, approaches that are recognised across the state as an important contribution to handling information.
Already a recipient of numerous awards, Westdale Public has earned Regional Giyanha Dirrabuu Murri awards as an outstanding school and for an outstanding contribution by an Aboriginal staff member.
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Northern Territory finalist
Esther (Billi) Djayhgurrnga
Gunbalanya School, Gunbalanya
A highly respected Indigenous community leader with a passion for education, and one of only two Indigenous principals in the Northern Territory, Billi Djayhgurrnga has led significant reform as the principal at Gunbalanya School in the West Arnhem College.
Billi’s leadership is marked by a commitment to student engagement in learning, innovation and positive relationships. An example of this is Billi’s collaboration with the school council to advocate for a flexible school year at Gunbalanya that is aligned with the seasons. As a result, this year Gunbalanya’s school year began in early January, when children were in the community during the Wet, and the long break shifted to midyear, when customarily children are away with their families. The positive results are already apparent, with significantly improved attendance among the 350 students. Staff satisfaction and morale remains high at Gunbalanya school.
Billi has worked with families and the community to develop a shared understanding of why education matters and uses “Cultures of Collaboration” as the basis for her engagement. Through this approach, local people have come to regard the school as part of the community.
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Cairns West State School, Manunda
Michael Hansen’s strong leadership and high expectations at Cairns West State School have helped to transform student engagement; closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous academic achievement and bringing greater family involvement within the school community.
Much of this success springs from the Academic Success Guarantee that Michael introduced in 2009; a pact in which parents commit to sending their children to school 95 per cent of the time and the school guarantees, in return, that these students will meet or exceed their year-level benchmarks. More than half of the families at the school have signed up and student performance has improved so markedly that last year Cairns West won the Queensland Showcase Award for Academic Excellence.
Another innovative solution Michael has implemented in response to a challenge is his adaptation of the assessment and reporting cycle at Cairns West to better fit with the movement of families that come to Cairns temporarily from the Torres Strait. Michael establishes structures to enable individual expertise to benefit all. Parents are now much more engaged in school activities and there is an active P&C committee, while outside the school local business owners speak positively about the students’ improved behaviour and sense of pride.
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South Australian finalist
Mimili Anangu School, Mimili
Since becoming principal at Mimili Anangu School in 2007, Christine Bell has pursued a program of continuous school improvement to meet the needs of 100 Indigenous students from birth to Year 12 — all of whom have Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara as their first language — and those of staff, families and the community.
Christine has led the development of a shared vision of excellence embraced by the whole community. Through her learning-centred leadership style there is a clear focus on improving learning outcomes, particularly in literacy and numeracy. This is supported through the development of student literacy profiles, working with the literacy coordinator, and targeted provision of regular, and relevant staff professional development focused on building partnerships with community leaders, parents and families to support the literacy of their students. Evidence of the success is seen in the 55 per cent increase in families reading or listening to their children read and improvements in post-reading achievement by 15 per cent across the primary years. Increased student engagement, increased retention and improved academic achievement in the senior year levels are outcomes of a redevelopment of the program for senior students – another initiative led by Christine.
Christine has supported staff through structured and purposeful professional development plans and staff are encouraged to engage with the wider profession and share their practices outside the school. She is a valued mentor and role model.
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Reece High School, Devonport (nominated while at Penguin High School)
Throughout his 10 years in the profession, Trent Graham has demonstrated his skill at teaching across all age groups, in a broad range of curriculum areas and in meeting the specific needs of Aboriginal students.
Trent encourages his students to be proud of themselves and their heritage. When at Penguin High School, he initiated a quality Aboriginal education program grounded in respect for Aboriginal cultures and diversity, and characterised by high expectations, Aboriginal curriculum and pedagogy and effective home and school partnerships.
Highly regarded by students, colleagues and families, Trent creates a supportive learning environment and draws on a diverse range of teaching strategies, inside and outside the classroom, aimed to both optimise student understanding and as a means for social development and appreciation. Trent’s contribution and leadership can be seen as influential factors in Penguin High School’s strong index of achievement relative to socio-economic status and small gap in the Indigenous equity measure. Trent is committed to ongoing professional learning and, among other professional opportunities, recently completed the Developing Quality Leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education course.
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Ballarat Secondary College, Ballarat
The Wannik Dance Academy at Ballarat Secondary College helps young Indigenous women to take steps towards a successful life. The academy is coordinated by Patricia Fox who has worked with teenagers as a school counsellor and teacher for the past four years at the multi-campus college.
Patricia is determined to make a difference to Indigenous girls’ lives. She developed theoretical components of the course at Wannik which integrate a range of skills and knowledge such as healthy lifestyle choices, food preparation, job interview and IT skills. She has created a collaborative learning environment and works closely with local Indigenous groups to enrich students’ traditional skills and cultural knowledge. The impact on Wannik members has been significant: attendance rates are 14 per cent above that of other Indigenous students at the college, literacy and numeracy levels have improved from 2010 to 2011 and several girls have taken up traineeships or part-time jobs, and had the opportunity to work with professionals from a range of performing arts.
Patricia has shared her practice and the impact of the program with teachers across Australia, and continued this sharing and her own professional learning with members of the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and Koori Engagement Support Officers.
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Western Australian finalist
Waggrakine Primary School, Waggrakine
Alison Watt has worked with passion and drive to meet the needs of Aboriginal children, accelerate their learning and help those at educational risk in the belief that all children can succeed at school and in life.
Waggarakine Primary School, where one quarter of the 430 students are Indigenous, is recognised as a lead school in developing 21st century learning and English teaching and was recently selected as a Teacher Development School (English). Drawing on her strong background in literacy, Alison has taken on important leadership roles in both Aboriginal and early-childhood education and is working to help build her colleagues’ English-teaching capabilities. She has done this through workshops, demonstrations and one-on-one sessions. Her classroom is used regularly as a tool for videoing explicit teaching techniques and showcasing walkthroughs by visiting educators.
With over 30 years experience working with Aboriginal students, Alison has been an integral part of planning, creating and maintaining initiatives to bring the community into schools and in turn enhance outcomes for students.
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