Adriano Truscott is a worldly man. He grew up in the UK in a multilingual family, dancing to a soundtrack of French, Italian and Cantonese music. He’s lived in Paris and Japan and worked in London for the renowned department store Harrods and tech-giant Apple. Yet when it comes down to it, Mr Truscott says his experiences in a soup kitchen gave him the most defining moments in his life.
“I lived in and out of a youth hostel in Paris after finishing school. I wanted to challenge myself, meet people and explore,” Mr Truscott explains.
“During this time, I’d often find myself either eating or volunteering at a soup kitchen.
“There I learnt that people have important stories to tell and difficulties to endure. I learnt that to understand others, it’s essential not to pass judgement.
“I have since come across the work of American author Stephen Covey who puts it much better – ‘seek to understand before seeking to be understood’.”
It’s small moments like these that led Mr Truscott to a career in education and have shaped the way he runs one of Western Australia’s most remote schools.
Fast forward to 2017 and Mr Truscott is principal of Wiluna Remote Community School. Situated in an Aboriginal community 1000 kilometres north-east of Perth and 550 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, the school has 87 local students from Kindergarten to Year 12.
He couldn’t be further from the likes of Paris and Japan, but these experiences are never far from his memory and are totally embedded in his teaching and how he has shaped the school community.
“The best piece of advice I ever received was from my mentor while I was teaching in Japan,” he recalls.
“It’s a Japanese practice called ‘nemawashi’. The idea behind it is that you quietly check in with people concerned about a proposed action, accommodating their views and getting support before announcing the action.
Mr Truscott’s gentle, compassionate and considerate nature has helped him build strong relationships with students and families.
“A particular moment that made me realise what I do is worthwhile was after I called a meeting with all the secondary school students and their families.
“We talked about why their role in the school, within their families and in the Wiluna community was so important.
“From the talk, we brainstormed the definition of our new school motto, Wiltu Ngara (Stand Strong), which was chosen by the families.
“Feedback from school staff was that the very next day, and the weeks following, the students were all a pleasure to work with. They helped the younger students and they listened to teachers.
“The commitment of students and their families – and the subsequent feedback – made me realise I was on the right track.”
In contrast to the serenity of his experiences in Japan, Mr Truscott has also brought the fun and vibrancy of his European heritage to the small remote town. He encourages his students to value and celebrate their language and culture.
“I have always had a desire to work in minority education and help children to be as prepared as possible for the complex lives ahead of them,” he says.
“I’m passionate about language and I hope students learn bi-cultural communication skills to help them have a positive role in the broader community.”
Most students speak Aboriginal English but the language of the area is Martuwangka.
One of Mr Truscott’s ultimate goals is to complete the school’s ‘Martu calendar’ – a fully-fledged, localised curriculum – to align and relate Martu knowledge to the Western Australian Curriculum.
“Professor Joseph Lo Bianco from the University of Melbourne has been an ongoing inspiration for me in this area of my work,” he says.
“His thoughts about how language can bring harmony and balance have been taken up by the United Nations and UNICEF – and have really encouraged my own thinking.
“I recall a particular student who made me realise that this approach was worth all the effort.
“He valued that I brought his language into the classroom, and that I appreciated his linguistic and cultural knowledge.
“I engaged him through his language and gave him opportunities to practice Australian English with school visitors so he would learn new things and broaden his world view.
“He responded so well that he helped encourage other students with their learning. At times he was almost like a teaching assistant.”
Mr Truscott is one of four principals who are finalists for the WA Primary Principal of the Year in the prestigious WA Education Awards for 2017.
His outstanding leadership and vision for all students has also resulted in Wiluna Remote Community School named as a finalist for the WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education Award. Winners will be announced at a gala event on 24 November.