I am a Narungga man born on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia. I’m married to my wife Mary and we have two children, Peter and Lorraine, and care for our great nephew Haymysh. I graduated as a teacher in the late 1970s and have been involved in the education profession for over 35 years in numerous roles; I now work at the university of South Australia as a professor and dean: Indigenous scholarship, engagement and research.
I am proud to be project director of the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI). I am committed to excellence in pursuit of better education outcomes for our youth, ensuring they can celebrate their cultural identity and acquire professional skills. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers are at the heart of this agenda.
I want to emphasise education as an urgent priority. I want to promote the importance of education as essential to the development of our children, and get our families and communities to see education as an important enabler for their children’s future prosperity. I want to talk up the importance of partnerships between teachers and parents, where shared responsibility is integral to the achievement of successful learning outcomes.
I also wish to share more information about the MATSITI “A deadly career!” forum for pre-service teachers, teachers, and education leaders from the school and higher education sectors, which is being held in Adelaide on the 14-15 October. This forum will put forward teaching as a career of choice and celebrate our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and principals as positive icons and heroes within our communities.
My role models have been those people who have integrity, passion, tenacity and respect for others in all what they do. So my immediate family fits the bill, and then there are those I’ve met over many years of service to education and the community. I am continuously privileged to meet many of our people who are committed to their families and our collective wellbeing. These are my heroes.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers are greatly underrepresented in Australian schools – 1% of the total of the teaching workforce in contrast to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders comprising 5% of the total student population. Teachers are good role models, and we need our children to be exposed to positive role models in their schools and communities. You can’t be what you can’t see.
The MATSITI initiative is part of an ambitious national policy agenda, which includes a more culturally inclusive Australian curriculum and professional standards for teachers and school leaders to effectively engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Supporting the development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teaching workforce is a vital part of this national policy agenda.
The conference will also capitalise on the opportunities and challenges associated with connectivity and globalisation, with external engagement through webinar and social media channels (#matsiti). It is important for us to celebrate our progress to date, and build on our successes. This forum is an essential part of taking the next step to achieve education parity for our children.
In the words of Martin Luther King, I hope to see a time when our children “will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the colour of their skin”. I hope we have a future where our children have the capacity to keep true to their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural identity and are honoured for their contribution to Australia as descendants of the oldest living culture of humanity. Finally, I hope we recruit more warriors to champion this work.