Story: Coming Together To Learn
2nd Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programme (IESIP) National Conference, 9-11 October 2001
For three days in October 2001, approximately 260 representatives from the preschool, school and vocational education and training sectors, along with a number of Indigenous Ambassadors, peak educational bodies and the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, came together to learn.
The spotlight was on Indigenous education. Discussions were focused on building family and community capacity through education and the progress made under the National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy (NIELNS), with the showcasing of practical demonstrations of how the Strategy is working in the schools and their communities.
Mr Graham Dillon and the Nunukul Kunjeil dancers representing the traditional owners, the Kombumerri people, welcomed all Conference delegates with their electrically charged traditional songs and dances of welcome.
Conference participants were then encouraged to be inspired, challenged and enthused about what is working in Indigenous education and what can be done better. Practical demonstrations of NIELNS initiatives working across the sectors from people like Ms Karen Hall from the Crèche and Kindergarten Association, Mr Frank van der Heide and Julianne Bradley from the ACT Catholic Education Office and Mr Bill Wilson from Tauondi College showed us all what can be achieved.
Powerful leadership speakers inspired courage in participants to believe we can do it. Role models such as NIELNS Ambassador Mrs May O’Brien, Principal of Cherbourg School in Queensland Mr Chris Sarra, and Principal of Tranby Aboriginal Co-op College Mr Jack Beetson spoke from the heart to a captivated Conference audience. Chris Sarra teaches his students to be ‘strong and smart’ and strive to be the best they can. Future leaders such Mr Geoff Lui, Ms Rowena Hamlet and Mr Tim Goodwin from the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group also shared with participants a strength and wisdom to be proud of. The future is in good hands with these focused individuals.
Improving learning outcomes for Indigenous students across the early childhood, school and vocational education and training sectors was the driving force behind all Conference discussions, along with the refusal to accept anything less than educational equality for all.
Initiatives under the NIELNS aim to significantly close the gaps by 2004 between the achievement of Indigenous students and other Australian students in the critical areas of literacy and numeracy, as well as improved attendance and school retention.
Conference participants walked away confident that, although there is a long way to go, when we take the time to listen and learn from each other, there is strength to move ahead. School can be a place where young Indigenous people feel comfortable with themselves and their culture, and are empowered to engage in the challenges of education and of life.