Deanne Aarts, Dave Hartley and Gavin Khan each have their own stories of how they have benefited from the Principals Leadership Project, run by the Stronger, Smarter Institute and supported by MATSITI.
Deanne Aarts, Assistant Principal, Norfolk Island Central School
Deanne is an Aboriginal woman with distant ties to the GunnaiKurnai mob in Gippsland, Victoria and to the Blue Mountains Region in NSW. The most immediate impact of the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program for Deanne has been on her personal leadership skills and ability to build strong relationships with her colleagues.
Deanne says the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program’s grounding in Aboriginal ways of thinking and being resonated strongly with her because of her heritage. She compared Stronger Smarter to another leadership course she had taken a couple of months previously. She says there was a lot of cross-over between the two courses, but she says, “The [other leadership course] was ‘the white man’s take’ on 200 years of researching leadership whereas Stronger Smarter to me was an innate, back to basics, spiritual way of understanding and presenting leadership. I can accept 200 years of research, but when doing Stronger Smarter, it’s embedded in me, the stories, the talking.”
Dave Hartley, Deputy Principal, Coomera Springs State School
Dave Hartley is a Barunggam man with ancestral ties to Chinchilla in South-West Queensland. Dave says that after attending the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program in 2015 he realised it was time for him to really turn his high expectations rhetoric into action.
“I see the skills I’ve learnt through Stronger Smarter as transferable to any school context regardless of large Indigenous enrolment, small Indigenous enrolment or no Indigenous enrolment at all,” Dave says. “Stronger Smarter is steeped in valuing our First People, it’s steeped in wanting more for them and doing more for them. But it’s relational as well, so you’ll be successful in any context if you can build strong relationships from the get go. For me Stronger Smarter has been all about being able to connect with a diverse range of people and building relationships with those people regardless of their cultural background.”
Gavin Khan, Executive Principal, Boggabilla Central School
Gavin Khan is a Kokatha and Arabanna Aboriginal Australian from the far north of South Australia. Gavin says the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program supported his leadership journey in developing a plan to support his own personal development and helping him focus on areas to work on.
As well as being a role model, Gavin says as a leader he needs to have challenging conversations. “If you don’t have those challenging conversations it’s just condoning the status quo. You just keep tinkering around the edges and nothing much changes at the core.” As an Aboriginal leader, he needed to challenge the stereotypes of what it is to be an Aboriginal person in terms of the relationship with education. “There is this script that has been written for us …. the norms, where Aboriginal people try to bring Aboriginal people down and say ‘this is who we are’. But we have to draw the line in the sand …. ‘I understand and hear that, but those are all excuses now and this is your school and I’m here to support you and this is a safe place’.
Read the original project announcement post (from October 2014)