From 2005 to 2009 I was principal of Aurukun State School and then Director of Western Cape College. In 2010 I became Assistant Director General (ADG) of the Division of and Employment Queensland. I had primary responsibility to put in place policies and practices that would “close the gap” between education outcomes for Indigenous and Non Indigenous students across all service provision areas. I am fully aware of the issues associated with gap analysis as a driver for improved school performance and will address these issues in future blogs. I held the position of ADG until 2012. In all these positions the underlying theme that drove my work was the quest of how to ensure quality educational outcomes for the Indigenous children in my care.
Thus as Director of the Western Cape College, a large multi campus school in western Cape York Queensland serving the communities of Aurukun Mapoon Napranum and the large mining town of Weipa, I introduced a range of strategies to fulfill that intent. Accordingly I implemented the Service Guarantee methodology and conceived and put into operation the Cradle to Employment Strategy. The Service Guarantee methodology assured all High School graduates of employment or further training options. The Cradle to Employment Strategy was a case management strategy tracking student outcomes from birth to employment. I also set up an Early Years Transition Team and co-developed and applied the Parents as First Teachers Strategy both strategies designed to improve school readiness for students in their early years. Additionally I developed, resourced and employed the Transition Support Service which supported students to study in Boarding Schools in city centres. As well, I devised numerous curriculum and pedagogical strategies to address contextual issues. In terms of fostering and supporting Indigenous leadership, I formulated and enacted the So-Solid student leadership strategy and created the DARE Team (Dreams Aspirations Respect Education). In addition I established the award winning Arts and Culture Program. Moreover I developed, funded and implemented the Weipa Arts Hub. Both programs were designed to create economic opportunities in the area of Indigenous Arts.
As well I founded the Centre for Leadership and Teaching Excellence. This included the creation of College wide performance monitoring tools. As a result, quality student outcomes in both academic and attendance areas were obtained. Specifically I maintained or improved literacy and numeracy results on benchmark tests despite rapid Indigenous enrolment. Mapoon students consistently achieved at or above state benchmarks on literacy four communities, including a marked attendance improvement in Aurukun in 2009.
I also recognized that infrastructural needs were a priority. Accordingly, the Weipa Campus was upgraded at a cost in excess of $30 million. The Aurukun Campus including teacher housing was also substantially improved. I partnered with the Indigenous Coordination Centre, Indigenous Lands Council, and cooperated with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to build a new student hostel, with 120 beds, at a cost of $35 million.
I gave a great deal of attention to the transition to work issue because of the problem of chronic mass unemployment among Indigenous people. To this end, among the programs that I delivered was a work readiness program which had 20 participants. I partnered with Rio Tinto Alcan to put together the forum strategy, now being used in Jabiru in the Northern Territory to ramp up Indigenous employment in the mine operated by Energy Resources Australia. There was significant participation in real economic opportunities across the portfolios of education, training and the arts.
I received the Prime Minister’s Award for School Community Partnerships Large Business Category in 2007, the Premier’s Award Excellence in Public Sector Management Partnerships & Reconciliation 2008, and the Regional Showcase Award for the Arts Strategy in 2009.