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Newslines Radio: Dare to Lead


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Nathan Ramsay

Associate Professor Bob Somerville, WA
Buffie Punch, Yule Brook College, WA

23 Oct 2012

Education is a powerful tool that can lead to greater opportunities and a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Newlines Radio looks at the Dare to Lead program and how some schools are doing things differently to make sure they educate and arm Indigenous students with knowledge and confidence so they have more opportunities and choices later in life.

In this program we talk to Martu man Associate Professor Bob Somerville AM from Western Australia who is a principal advisor for the Dare to Lead project.

Dare to Lead is a commonwealth funded national project with a focus on improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students

As well Buffie Punch form Yule Brook College in Perth spoke to Newslines about what the college is doing to encourage their Indigenous kids to keep up their school attendance.

The Australian Government recognises that schooling is one of the building blocks in the Closing the Gap strategy.

PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

Education is a powerful tool that can lead to greater opportunities and a better future.

But it’s always a challenge to make sure our kids attend school regularly and stick at their studies.

Today, we will look at how some schools are adapting the way they teach and run their schools so that students are more motivated to succeed and stay in school. And it’s working!

Some of this work is being done through a program set up by Principals Australia, in 2000, it called Dare to Lead.

All around Australia it’s the dedicated parents, principals and teachers who are helping our children to succeed in school and making sure they get a good education

Dare to Lead, funded by the Australian Government is a national project with a focus on improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students.

Currently over 53% of all Australian schools are signed on as members of the Dare to Lead initiative.

Associate Professor Bob Somerville AM is a Martu man from the Jigalong community in Western Australia and is a principal advisor for the Dare to Lead project.

He recently left the position of Director of Aboriginal Education for Western Australia, a position he held for over nine years.

Bob spoke to Newslines Trevor Ellis

SOMERVILLE: Dare To Lead is a really interesting program and one that I connected with immediately when I was a Director of Aboriginal education and the reason I say that is it’s actually school principals who banded together and said we want to make a difference for Aboriginal people, we need to have a program that we place together and works shoulder to shoulder with the Aboriginal community to make a difference for Aboriginal kids in schools. We’re the ones who can lead the change, we’re the ones who do it in the schools but we need to provide support to our colleagues so they can do it as well.

So as a Director, it was a program I immediately went for because I thought at long last, I’ve got the principals working shoulder to shoulder with me to make a difference for their colleagues.

So the Dare To Lead program does a large number of things; they’ve got 6,000 schools across Australia that are part of the Dare To Lead network and it’s Government schools, Catholic schools, Independent schools and Dare To Lead provides a range of services to assist the principal to make changes in the school itself.

ELLIS: And how does it actually work?

SOMERVILLE: It works in a whole range of ways. Firstly schools can sign up and there’s a whole range of online network things that are available to principals so you can get support immediately online, other colleagues can come into the school and assist by doing what they call a “school snapshot” which is like a review of how well Aboriginal youngsters are doing in the school, what are the positives, what are the areas the school can improve on and focus on.

Those colleagues than come in are obviously expert principals who interview the Aboriginal community, the Aboriginal students, the teachers and so on and then provide a report back to the school of where they might go. Very powerful. And then assist the principal and manage the changes that we see in place.

As well as that there’s a range of professional development products that principals can access which help principals to ask some hard questions around what is equity? What might they do and what are they doing in their schools and what can they do to make change that benefits our kids, Aboriginal kids.

PRESENTER: Each year The Dare to Lead Excellence in Leadership in Indigenous Education Awards are presented to recognise schools that demonstrate high levels of leadership, Indigenous community involvement and improvements in areas such as attendance, retention and literacy and numeracy.

We will hear from a few of the schools that took out awards earlier this year.

One of those recognised was Yule Brook College a middle school for students in Years 8-10 located in the suburbs of Perth. Of the school's 175 students, 70 are Indigenous.

Buffie Punch works at Yule Brook College and spoke to Newslines about the work the college is doing to encourage their Indigenous students to keep their attendance at school.

PUNCH: It is a small school but we have a community feel, there is a close knit community. I run a girls academy, we do some cultural awareness with the girls as well, the boys have a football academy.

Through the girls academy we have reward attendance excursions so they have to have 90% and above and we had such good results last term that we had to do two excursions because the girls were so good with their attendance and the boys they have their football games and if their attendance isn’t ninety and above they don’t get to play football so there are those incentives.

With the girls academy that started two years ago we’ve doubled the attendance of the girls in that time so just going up and up. We have them twice a week for an hour a session and that’s self-esteem, self-awareness and then we also do art and crafts so that’s developing their self-esteem through art and craft, and it’s just personal development and we have discussion sessions so they feel comfortable and they can talk about anything to us.

PRESENTER: To find out more about how the Australian Government is working to improve the educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children check out the links on our website, You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend Newslines Radio on Facebook.

I’m Nathan Ramsay, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.

Stay deadly!

Find out more

Dare to Lead is a commonwealth funded national project with a focus on improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students.

Education is a central part of the Australian Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory strategy, with the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) introduced into selected schools throughout the Territory in 2009.

For more information on SEAM visit the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Read more about Stronger Futures in the NT.

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