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WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education 2018

Wiluna Remote Community School

Wiltu Ngara (Stand Strong)

We have all heard of the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. For Adriano Truscott, principal of Wiluna Remote Community School, this old African proverb is key to the success of the school.

“The strength of the school is the community,” Adriano says. “So much of our work and what makes us distinctive comes from community leadership.”

As winners of the 2018 WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education Award, building strong relationships with the local community is the cornerstone of all work done at Wiluna.

A small school with just under 80 students, Wiluna is located in Martu country, 966 kilometres northeast of Perth, on the edge of the desert between the Canning Stock Route and Gunbarrel Highway. But what some may see as isolation has only aided the development of a tight-knit school community.

“Aboriginal staff and community are consulted at every level, from the classroom to administration. Their voices and aspirations are embedded in our school documents and policies,” says Adriano.

“There is a school expectation that non-Aboriginal staff reach out to families from day one. Share with them, involve them, distribute photos of learning of their children to them so they know what’s happening. Staff understand that we’re a two-way school from the outset.”

Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers at Wiluna are called ‘local teachers’ and they – together with the elders, local rangers and community members – are invited to teach new staff about Aboriginal knowledge and practices.

It is that sense of ownership and collaboration that has seen resources like the Martu Calendar developed. Created in 2015 from input provided by the Martu community and elders, the calendar focuses on local knowledge through the seasons in the areas of flora, fauna, the weather and people and is constantly updated and added to.

“It is the seed that has grown into a tree. It has allowed for truly rich learning, meaningful two-way collaboration and an exponential building of relationships and trust,” Adriano says.

“It encourages cross-cultural learning throughout the school and into the community. It satisfies the needs of the school in terms of academic rigour and the community because it supports the inter-generational transfer of knowledge.”

Coming to Wiluna as a graduate teacher and progressing to principal, Adriano says the development of the calendar is one of his greatest achievements in his time at the school.

“I think these achievements are important because they help establish the school-community relationship in mutually beneficial and defined terms and ultimately ensures continuity and evolution of school-community collaboration.”

Paulina Motlop, Director of Aboriginal Education Teaching and Learning, says the school’s focus on relationships with students and the community makes it stand out.

“The vision of standing strong and feeling proud permeates every aspect of the school,” says Paulina.

“Wiluna Remote Community School leads a two-way approach in every aspect of the school. This includes a strong focus on high expectations, as well as on the wellbeing and empowerment of Aboriginal students, Aboriginal staff, Aboriginal community and family members.

“The school leadership team recognises that for students, new knowledge builds on existing knowledge and that valuing and incorporating existing cultural aspects in learning and teaching is paramount to improving educational outcomes.” 

The school has recently taken over a disused training facility to offer vocational education and training courses. In doing so, it has developed employment pathways for students.

“It has made our work in two-way science socially, culturally and economically relevant,” Adriano says.

“After securing staffing and then partnering with key agencies, the site has become an enabler for bigger things. Agencies are investing in the school, which brings greater strength and community cohesion, bolstering the role of the school in the community.”

The training facility is part of the leadership team’s aim to embed the school in the region by connecting with industry and regional employers to not only help create opportunities for students, but also ensure that they continue to strive for excellence and innovation in education in an ever changing world.

“After they finish school, we want students to have confidence in themselves and their ability to work cross-culturally as representatives of their families and community,” Adriano says. 

“Education, like life, needs to be joyous, meaningful and respectful. Our school is part of a bigger system, and it is by working together that we can reflect and achieve more as a group for all students.”


WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education 2018

This award recognises schools that work actively to improve education outcomes for Aboriginal students. With strong leadership, all staff work together and pursue innovations to create positive experiences where every student reaches their potential.

Proudly sponsored by BHP.

Winner:

  • Wiluna Remote Community School

Finalists:

  • Cable Beach Primary School
  • East Kalgoorlie Primary School
  • La Grange Community School