Gary Cattanach is the recipient of the Australian Education Union’s 2014 Arthur Hamilton Award for an outstanding contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
Gary, a Gungarri man from Charleville in central Queensland, is the trade school coordinator at Nambucca Heads High School, on the north coast of NSW.
At a school where more than 20% of the students are Indigenous, in a community with unemployment at more than twice the national average, it’s a role with significant social relevance.
For more than 25 years Gary has been a leader in the process of reconciliation through education, in and out of the classroom, as a teacher/mentor to students, parents and the school.
Most recently, in the context of closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage, Gary has taken the leading role in establishing the first Junior Land Council (JLC) in NSW and possibly in Australia.
The catalyst was a neglected plot of land at the Bellwood Aboriginal Reserve that was ripe for a makeover. Gary and his team reimagined what was a no-go zone for most of the community. They enlisted an enthusiastic team of Indigenous and other students, teachers and community members.
The area now includes a turfed playing field, a children’s playground, vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
The young JLC members were actively involved in every step of the transformation and made policy decisions that went beyond the cosmetic. For example, it was their idea to designate alcohol-free zones at the reserve, which the community supports and enforces.
As a result of the JLC, participation in the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council has jumped 300%. Students involved in the JLC, and others in their immediate and extended families, are more engaged at school. There are more Indigenous students on school committees, relationships between students and staff are more positive and respectful, and school attendance has improved.
Story courtesy of the Koori Mail – Read the full article.
Also see the video developed by Gary and supported by MATSITI Change, Opportunity and Fun.