Name: Troy Ruttley
Tracking down Troy Ruttley, May’s Teacher of the Month, was harder than expected but understandable, considering this 26-year-old splits his time between three jobs and community theatre projects. He works as an Aboriginal Education Advisor (AEA) at both St Gregory’s College in Campbelltown and Sarah Redfern Primary School in Minto. He also runs the H.Y.P.E. (Helping Young People Excel) outreach program through the Macquarie Fields TAFE three days a week. In addition to his educational responsibilities, he tutors boarders at St Gregory’s in the evenings and has started a community dance project for all ages called the Nanga Mai Dream Theatre.
Troy has been helping to motivate young kids since he was in high school, when he choreographed for the Sarah Redfern High School Rocket Steppers. He briefly went to Southern Cross University before moving to Melbourne to pursue acting. He then auditioned for the famous National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) based at The Rocks in Sydney. Troy trained and toured with NAISDA for three years, learning about dance and the diverse cultures of Indigenous Australia – or, as he says, “building knowledge to give back” to his home community. He now gives that knowledge back as an AEA.
As an AEA, he tries to promote a healthy, contemporary mix of culture and identity by focusing on self-respect and pride. Troy’s philosophy about education is that “culture is taught”. The more his students learn about their ancestry, the more they will feel connected to and proud of their roots because “if you have strong identity, nothing will stop you from achieving”. This is also emphasised by using the media as an educational tool that people can relate to. However, because kids “need reassurance … and the media can twist things to change your perspective”, Troy encourages his students to “[go] out and find truth”. Troy likes to use Deadly Vibe as one particular example of positive role models and honest feature stories.
Believing that you have to get your hands proverbially dirty in order to help people who truly need help, Troy selflessly gives his time to the Macquarie Fields TAFE H.Y.P.E. program, which provides a consistent and safe environment for troubled students. There, he works with about 15 kids (five of which are of Indigenous background) who range in age from 13 to 19. The program provides lunch, develops math and literacy skills, and sets up work experience opportunities.
Troy says that for all his endeavours, the biggest challenge is trying to cater to each individual’s cultural needs. Sometimes, being consistent with education protocol can become difficult for culturally specific topics, and one can never quite meet the needs of everyone, but Troy tries to find a happy medium.
Some of his projects have included bringing Indigenous foods to the school canteen, creating cultural celebration days with local councils and staging corroborees. This year, Troy is particularly excited about having the one-day cultural celebration extended to a full week. Activities will include making a jigsaw mural, with each piece representing a student’s area of origin, and a ’50s- and ’60s-themed fashion show.
Troy sees each of the schools he works with as communities within communities. Every successful project he develops that draws enthusiastic participation from the kids he sees as one step closer to reconciliation.
Wise beyond his years, Troy stays humble and infinitely appreciative of those who have supported him along the way. He insists that there are at least 10 people who are more deserving of Teacher of the Month than he, such as co-workers, collaborators and his mentor Sharon Baird.