The community is a priority at Taree High School

(BRIGHT MUSIC) I’m Allison Alliston. I’m the executive principal
at Taree High School, Mid North Coast of New South Wales, north of Newcastle,
south of Port Macquarie. We have 900 students at the school
and a support unit. 13% Aboriginal students. We’re a Connected Communities school, so we have parents and Elders who have a decision-making role
in the school. So when we look at the school plan, we have a monthly meeting
where they check off that we’re meeting our milestones,
which is great, and it’s a genuine
consultative process. That has actually changed the trust
level of our Aboriginal community on the high school. We have a series of programs which are embedded
in everyday school life. The mentor of that
is Uncle Russell Saunders, who’s our Elder-in-residence. UNCLE RUSS: Myself, growing up, I was very uncomfortable
around non-Aboriginal people. I was 14 and a half years of age
when I left school and I went out into the world
and I got the big shock like every other unfortunate child
who’s not educated. After a swim, I used to grab
a lump of clay out the bank and I’d lay on the log there
drying in the sun and make things, and so somehow this drive for art
was in me. Allison gave me a call on the phone and said that “We want you
to come in our class” because of my art and my skills and because of my contact
with the school, “But not only that, we want
as an Elder-in-residence.” I just love the opportunity
to sit in here in this room and talk to the kids about my life, about the people of this valley,
the Biripi people, my knowledge I can share with them and, you know,
the stolen generation, racism. Talk about country, culture. We do a Brospeak program
and I work with young Josh, Aboriginal worker here,
and a teacher, and we take our Indigenous boys
out on country, and I share with them the land,
the culture, language. We’ve got our language back now,
which we’re proud of. That program, that engages
agencies and organisations like National Parks and Wildlife, Hunter New England Health,
Biripi Aboriginal medical services, as well as the local
Aboriginal men’s group, Elders and parents. EILEEN McGRADY: I’m the Aboriginal
Education Officer here at Taree High and I’m one of a team
of five to six people who look after the kids
from Year 7 to Year 12. For the girls,
we’re running Sistaspeak, of which I’m a coordinator, and I do that in line with
Alison Last, who’s a teacher. The main basis is empowerment
for the young women. ALI HAIGH: Hi! ALI HAIGH: We joined together to do a Sistaspeak program. And that means the girls come
out of school and into the gallery facilities
to make work, and it’s kind of
a mentorship program that enables them
to work from our space rather than the school environment. This year, we did a program with them and we did some critical thinking
and creative exercises around what did they want to say. You know, their theme
“Because of her, we can…” You know, who was that ‘her’
in their life and what did that mean and how could we portray that
through painting. Some of the girls don’t have
the support they need at home, so we try and give that support
to them here at school. Both the programs are about developing a sense of strength
amongst our Aboriginal students, which then they go and share
with their non-Aboriginal peers, so it’s a way of embedding
in all kids the Biripi culture. (BRIGHT MUSIC)

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