WA Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer of the Year 2018

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Barbara Dalgety, Bluff Point Primary School

Strengthening community ties

“Education is important because it is the stepping stone to achieve your dreams.”

That’s the philosophy Barbara Dalgety wants to pass on to students at Bluff Point Primary School in Geraldton, where she has worked as an Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer for almost three decades.

An inspiring leader in the school community, Barbara motivates Aboriginal students with her view that they thrive on high expectations.

“The most important lessons I’ve learned in life, which I tell my students, is to always work hard, be truthful and be respectful to others,” Barbara says.

“And the greatest, most rewarding part of my day is seeing students truly give their best.”

Barbara has made huge contributions to the school in the areas of attendance, behaviour and classroom engagement, and constantly inspires students to achieve their best.

Recent NAPLAN results are a testament to her efforts. When the school introduced Synthetic Phonics – a method of teaching reading by breaking a word down into sounds – Barbara developed a learning program and resources for small groups, which she continues to teach today. With her dedicated support, spelling results in Years 3 to 5 have improved dramatically in the last five years.

“It gives me a sense of triumph not only for the student but also for myself,” she says.

Barbara reflects on a student success story: “A student started in Year 1 with very poor social skills and emotional awareness – assisting him in the classroom was at times very challenging,” she recalls.

“While he really struggled in his early years, he improved over time.

“By his graduating year we had watched him become a successful student who became a school leader and faction captain, standing in front of assembly giving speeches, representing the school at functions and supporting his peers.

"As a student who struggled so much in the beginning, to see him achieve these things with our support gave not just me, but the rest of staff, a true sense of inspiration and achievement.”

Throughout her time at the school, Barbara has transformed the school environment, through strengthening community ties and weaving Aboriginal culture into the fabric of the school.

She has ensured that every classroom has an Aboriginal presence. Teachers and students alike enjoy the gathering mats she arranged for the classrooms, with earth-toned Aboriginal designs.

She has arranged the planting of bush tucker gardens, painting of Aboriginal murals and creation of dance groups at the school, to celebrate Aboriginal culture and promote an inclusive environment that is welcoming to Aboriginal students and families.

To further strengthen Aboriginal culture, Barbara established a ‘Dolls and Yarning’ lunchtime program, where each girl made a doll representing a significant woman in her life and yarned about childhood, life, family and community experiences.

She also organised a professional learning day where she took staff to culturally significant sites around Geraldton, to share stories of Aboriginal history and culture, which was then incorporated into classroom resources for students to learn.

Barbara’s efforts to strengthen cultural and community ties extend well beyond the classroom, and her strong connections and partnerships outside of the school has allowed her to secure permission for students to sing a Wajarri welcome song, ‘Yananyi’, in dance and music groups.

Led by Barbara, Bluff Point Primary now hosts some of the largest NAIDOC and Harmony Day celebrations in the community.

As a school with a high transiency rate, one of Barbara’s key goals during her 29 years there has been to improve student attendance.

She has made huge contributions in this area, again through her emphasis on genuine connection with the students, their families and the wider community.

“The absolute best part of my job is helping and building good rapport with students and their families,” Barbara says.

WA Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer of the Year 2018

This award recognises the significant role of Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers in supporting school staff to develop culturally inclusive teaching and learning programs for Aboriginal students.

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  • Barbara Dalgety, Bluff Point Primary School


  • Jade Muli, Warwick Senior High School
  • Boyd Woods, Katanning Senior High School