Developing a sustainable professional leadership model to embed a culturally nourishing response to Aboriginal education

Year: 2019

Author: Burgess, Cathie, Lowe, Kevin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One of the key findings of the Aboriginal Voices Systematic Reviews (2019), identified evidence of schools having a positive impact on Aboriginal students’ social and educational outcomes when principals actively and genuinely engaged with their local Aboriginal communities and clearly articulating a two-way partnership arrangement to support teacher development and student success at school. However, while these reviews identified that this model was an exemplar approach to school leadership, it also identified that as effective as this model could be in shifting students’ schooling experiences, it was an aberration in current leadership practice rather than the norm. These findings, along with evidence in other international jurisdictions (NZ, Canada and U.S.) have identified the need to develop a whole-of-school model of community and school leadership that focuses on power-sharing, active leadership of curriculum and pedagogic change and the need to embed local cultural programs that enhance both the cultural and learner identities and the well-being of Aboriginal students.

This paper outlines a leadership model focusing not only principals but middle leaders such as teachers and Aboriginal Education Officers (AEOs, who have shown their capacity to affect change in Aboriginal education through their knowledge, passion, and commitment to their students and communities. This model will include:

* Leading to embed ‘Learning from Country’ and working with Aboriginal people to establish and resource sustainable models of authentic Aboriginal cultural immersion
* Leading pedagogic change, including a model of experiential, project-based epistemic mentoring by Aboriginal educators
* Leading professional change and engagement through facilitated observations of teaching, relationship building, and community dialogue
* Critical, self-reflexive co-leadership to affect the schooling of Aboriginal students through leadership professional leaning, critical engagement and school-based research.

This holistic approach is designed to immerse principals and middle leaders in a range of supportive and nurturing cognitive and affective strategies to enact, embed and embody significant and sustainable change in their schools.

At its centre, this is underpinned by a critical Indigenous standpoint that acknowledges the devastating and on-going impact of colonisation and that actively works to problematise, challenge and disrupt this ever-present process by placing Aboriginal voices at its centre and as the foundation for school reform. This position foregrounds Aboriginal community cultural wealth, a distributive power-sharing approach to leadership and a commitment to changing the practices schooling.