WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education Award 2021

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Prepared, positive and connected

Mount Lawley Senior High School
WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education Award

Ten years ago, Mount Lawley Senior High School embarked on a journey to inspire Aboriginal students to reach their full potential.

The establishment of the school’s Aboriginal Excellence Program in 2011 was just the beginning.

In the past four years, the school’s commitment to Aboriginal education has gone from strength to strength.

Principal Lesley Street says her school’s approach is about helping Aboriginal students feel culturally safe and feel proud to be Aboriginal people.

“It is a whole of school approach to ensure Aboriginal education is seen as everybody’s business so the mantra of ‘every student, every classroom’ is realised,” she says.

“From this, we want our Aboriginal students to reach their potential and enter the post-school world feeling prepared, positive and connected.”

Examples of Aboriginal student achievement include Taylor MacKinnon, a 2020 graduate who received the Rob Riley Memorial Prize for being the top public school Aboriginal student in WA, with a 96.6 ATAR.

Now in her first year of medicine, Taylor also serves as a respected tutor and mentor for Aboriginal students at the school.

Other recent graduates are studying law, Aboriginal studies, teaching, medicine and programming at university, and one school graduate was selected for Collingwood Football Club’s Youth Development Program.

These are just a few success stories of the students participating in the school’s Aboriginal Excellence Program, which caters for Aboriginal students in Years 7 to 9, and Follow the Dream Outreach Program in Years 10 to 12, which the school hosts.

Lesley says these programs give the students a sense of belonging.

“Being a part of these programs enhances their sense of identity and helps them build positive relationships with staff,” she says.

It’s all part of the school’s holistic approach to the implementation of Aboriginal education.

At the foundation of this is relationships, particularly with Edith Cowan University and Kurongkurl Katitjin, which partners with the school, and St Catherine’s College at the University of Western Australia, which provides tutoring and mentorship to Aboriginal students.

“We have developed a bespoke 20-hour professional learning program in partnership with ECU’s Kurongkurl Katitjin, and more than 90 teachers have volunteered their time and completed the course,” Lesley says.

Mount Lawley Senior High School also partners with TAFE, corporate supporters and community organisations, and its Aboriginal Excellence Program has won the national NAB Impact Award for community corporate partnerships.

Aboriginal Excellence Program students attend tutorials that provide academic counselling, career guidance and a focus on cultural, historic and social topics such as Aboriginal ANZACs, constitutional recognition and reconciliation.

Follow the Dream students connect with peers, visit universities, attend cultural camps, connect with Elders and establish pride in their culture.

The results speak for themselves.

For the past three years, Follow the Dream program students have attained a 100 per cent WACE achievement. From the 2020 cohort of 22 Year 12 students, 19 students are now attending university and three are enrolled in traineeships.

If you walk through the school, there are visual symbols that reflect the connection to Aboriginal culture and community.

“We have made the school more culturally welcoming and responsive, tangibly through murals, canvasses and staff shirts as well as assisting staff to become more culturally aware,” Lesley says.

“This enhanced cultural awareness is implemented by staff through improved teaching and learning programs.”

Mount Lawley Senior High School’s ethos is that Aboriginal Education must be the everyday business of all staff and involve all students.

When asked to give one piece of advice to students, Lesley says it is about taking and pursuing opportunities.

“Don’t just take every opportunity that comes your way, but actively seek out additional opportunities.”

This award recognises schools that work actively to improve education outcomes for Aboriginal students. It acknowledges a  primary or secondary school that demonstrates embedded and consistent practice in building a whole-school culture focused on improving the outcomes of Aboriginal students.

This award is proudly sponsored by platinum partner BHP.

  • Mount Lawley Senior High School
  • Baynton West Primary School
  • Beachlands Primary School
  • Dawul Remote Community School