Schools, families and communities working together

Good morning!
Great to see you here, guys. Good morning, Shereen. How are you?
Have a good day. When I get up in the morning,
I come to school, drop my two children off,
and my granddaughter, the first person I meet
and greet in the morning is Mark. He’s a very friendly person,
and he makes my day happy. The kids play a while,
make them really happy. I know that I’ve got
someone in the front, at the gate,
to welcome me. That can come out,
Uncle Col. It’s a bit of an obnoxious
little weedy weed. Got them. Beautiful.
You’ve done a great job. And here… With Aboriginal kids
and Islanders, I think they look up
to the elders, and lift their spirit up,
and make them real welcome, that they got someone there
to talk to, and make them realise
that they can move on with whatever
they want in life. I think there are
a lot of reasons why Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander parents aren’t engaging
at the moment. I think, first and foremost,
we just have to look at our commitments
that we do have as parents. Certainly underpinning that
is when you have a look at the transgenerational effects
from the Stolen Generation is you only have to look two
to three generations back. Sometimes the grandparents
of the kids at this school now that wasn’t engaged
in school, that school actually may have
not been an option for them, or if they were engaged
at school, it could’ve been
a very negative experience. Most of the time,
if they’re on Stolen Generation and out
from these communities, the family wasn’t involved
in school. There was
a disconnectedness to that, so they weren’t involved
in day-to-day. They didn’t have
their parents getting them up
ready for school, getting their breakfast and ensuring
they’ve got breakfast, getting their lunches ready. They didn’t see
their parents connect and have that relationship
with their teachers. So, again, it’s about
how can we acknowledge that disconnectedness
that the Aboriginal, primarily
the Aboriginal community, has had from education,
as a family unit, and how can we move
that forward in today to ensure that we have
family units and family communities
supporting or picaninnies through school. You don’t have the trust,
you don’t get them in here. They will not come. Look, I have been shunned
many times, actually, and it never deterred me
from trying. When they introduced these community
liaison officers in school, especially in our school,
it was like godsend. I work very closely with
community liaison officers. When they go for home visits,
I go with them, you know. At one point, I used to go
home visit myself. Nobody comes out. They think that I’m doing
some kind of survey or I’m selling some product, but then when I go out with
the community liaison officers, they build the relationship
and I extend my hand and say, “I’m the school counsellor.” Aboriginal liaison officers are crucial in creating
a strong partnership between the family
and the school. They are the go-to person. They’re usually
the first person that you contact for both the family
and the school. They are the go-between, and they’re a good place
to gain knowledge but also to give knowledge
to families and the school in matters
concerning the child. They’re in a unique position
to foster good relationships between parents and child so parents feel comfortable
in discussing their child’s matters
with the school, and also the school feels like
they’ve got someone to go to when they want
to address a family. As a non-aboriginal person working in a predominantly
aboriginal context, it’s a challenge and you have to think
very carefully and constantly about how
you’re communicating because we’re from
different cultures. We have many things in common and we have some things that
are just culturally different. It’s my job
to be aware of that. The best way to go
about doing that is to listen to
your indigenous staff and follow their lead. When I go to a place,
it is an advantage because I’ve got
a skin group; I’ve got family connections, cultural connections
to an area, which gives me a good
sort of lead-in, but I always consult with, yes, the people that have been
at the school for a long time, the traditional owners,
the people from this area, because I think teaching
the kids from this area- there is no perfect model that
you can bring in from anywhere. It’s got to be- yes, the answers
for Broome Primary are in Broome. My family’s in Roebourne,
the answers- if something works well here, we can take aspects of it
to Roebourne or anywhere else, but it’s got to be
developed from Roebourne. The answers for the community
are in the community. Even within the same community,
you could ask a bunch of elders the same questions
to five or ten families and get five or ten
different responses, so you’ve just got to do
as much consultation as you can and do your best. The next house
is Miss Nancy. She’s the grandmother to- great-grandmother, grandmother
to most of the kids at school. It’s important for schools
to acknowledge the difference
in kinship structures in aboriginal families and that sometimes,
in some families, that might take precedence
over going to schools. If schools can acknowledge
that some family business, sometimes sorry business, will take precedence
over school, they can modify the way that
they approach the families to ensure that there
is continued engagement and there’s a strong
partnership between the family
and the school. Liaison visits
that we have every week- if we don’t have
any referrals, maybe we’ll just touch base
with parents, remind them
that there’s a big- or that there
is Harmony Week. Maybe we could deliver
those indigenous… To get parents to come in
and do other stuff has been actually
quite hard, and that’s when we looked
at Kids Matter as a way of maybe
getting a team and maybe feeling like
they could have some power in helping us,
looking at our wellbeing. Last year, we started that
with some parents, and it started
to grow a bit. We’ve had actually
quite a few parent meetings this year already, which we’re really
happy about. Parents are really keen. We’ve got some big
beautiful planter pots that we’re painting. They’re going to come
and do some painting with us and do some planting of flowers
around our birdbaths. We’ve had some parents
come in to our vegetable garden and help with that. And it’s just-
getting that space where they feel like
they belong and that they want to be here, and then getting them
on the governing council and saying,
“Well, you can make some decisions
around this, too. You have a voice.
You have some power.” Cooking lessons, reading to kids
in the classroom- all of those things are really,
really important things for our school to feel like
it is a community. I feel this school
does really well at engaging us as parents,
as that link, as that connector
to the kids’ education to long-term, rather than putting focus in
and putting all that on the education system. What can we share? I feel there’s much
more shared responsibility and vision
for us as parents with the education system, than there was when I was
going to high school.

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