Story: Tiga Bayles
Tiga Bayles is one individual who knows the value of a good education. As well as being general manager of Murri radio station 4AAA, Tiga is chair of the board of management of the Murri School in Brisbane and has played major roles in establishing both.
Tiga, his uncle Ross and others founded the Murri School 14 years ago. Since then the school has expanded from an infants school to include primary and now secondary schooling up to Year 10.
“We hope to have Year 11 and 12 classes here eventually,” says Tiga.
The aim of establishing the school was to give the parents and community the chance to guide the local Murri children’s education and make it culturally relevant.
“We didn’t want our kids being fostered out to white homes and we didn’t want them dominated by the culture in white schools,” Tiga says.
It was the Quakers who first gave the founding group the money to buy a disused convent in which to establish the Murri Primary School. More recently, Commonwealth Education Minister Dr David Kemp gave the board of management $2.4 million to buy the land and buildings of the former Acacia Ridge Primary School and extend the school to Year 10.
Students at the Murri School are taught the mainstream curriculum in a culturally sensitive environment. Approximately 80 per cent of the teachers are Indigenous and the school boasts enrolments of 200 students. To its credit, students stay on at the school for a longer period of time than Indigenous students at mainstream schools – they tend not to drop out because the Murri School is a happy place to be.
The Murri School looks after individuals in a holistic manner. There is a school-based counsellor who deals with personal and family issues as well as an employment placement officer. They also have a health centre on site and a doctor visits the school once a week. The school’s rationale is that when a child is healthy he or she can perform to a better standard in the classroom. Students are provided with breakfast, morning tea and lunch, and the school has four buses that transport them to and from school each day.
Many of Tiga’s relatives are at the school, including children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and cousins.
“The kids at this school are talented, well looked after, happy and doing well. They are performing above the state averages in English literacy. I can’t even begin to imagine what trails they’ll blaze for their kids and grandkids. It’s a future I’d love my ancestors as well as my descendants to share. I’m glad I’ve been a part of helping them on their way.”
Tiga is also an ambassador for the Commonwealth National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
“I became an ambassador because I know from experience that education gives our people choices about the kind of future they want for themselves. As parents, teachers, community leaders and elders, it’s our responsibility to establish good tracks for our kids so they can follow the paths that will lead them to a better future,” says Tiga.