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Inside Teaching : June 2010
Inside Teaching | June 2010 FEATURE 8 'All the years I've been here we have never said Aboriginal children and white kids; we've always said "all children," and they're everyone's responsibility,' McGrady explains. 'Aboriginal culture is across the board, but there is no stereotyping. I am an Aunty to every child in the school. Our teachers have high expectations of all students. They believe in them and let them know that they can get there.' While much community contact is informal, there's also formal recognition and consultation. The local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group is alive and well. There's also an Aboriginal Education Committee which meets at the school every Friday morning and which community members can attend. 'I run the Aboriginal Education Committee meeting and if parents want to have their say they know they will be listened to,' McGrady says. 'The minutes are given to every teacher and any issues go to the staff meeting. We ensure there is always follow-up. 'Parents know that it's not just Lesley and the teachers who own this school. It's the community's school too. Selina Hickling, our Aboriginal student support officer, goes out to Jubullum Village every Tuesday and parents know they can talk to her. Selina also picks up parents and brings them in for school assemblies. She represents a younger generation. I have pulled back from the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Aboriginal education officer Carmel McGrady, at left, and principal Lesley Mills, who have worked closely together at Tabulam Public School for almost 25 years. Says Mills, 'I've learned a lot about the Aboriginal understanding of the world which has been to my benefit. Those insights might benefit a lot of other people, too, learning that there are different ways of looking at the one problem, and that a team approach is a better solution to a problem than any one person's efforts.' officer (AEO). Between them, Mills and McGrady know literally everyone in Tabulam. The longevity of their working partnership means they've been able to devise and trial any number of strategies for Indigenous education. It also means they're in the happy position of having many former students now returning to the school as parents, giving them an immediate connection. Consider the fact that many isolated schools experience problems because they have high staff turnover, and it's clear that Mills and McGrady's long-term commitment to the town and the education of its children is a significant plus. 'If there's something happening, Lesley always asks me my opinion. Not many principals will ask their AEO what they think, and value that opinion,' McGrady says. 'We discuss a variety of opinions and always reach a solution which is in the best interests of the students. Even when discussions are difficult, relationships are unaffected. If we disagree on something we talk about it, a decision is made, and we walk away and leave it. That's the way we work together.' Some schools feel like good places. Tabulam PS is one of them. The telephone poles leading towards the school have been painted with colourful designs, a joint effort between students and community members. The grounds are spacious. There's artwork on walls and photographs of smiling students abound.