Partnerships with the local Aboriginal community and/or Torres Strait Islander community are important within a school context. They need to be negotiated to build reciprocal relationships between the school and the local community.
Involving the local Aboriginal community and/or Torres Strait Islander community in schools, school activities and initiatives enables schools to:
- send a strong message to students, parents and community that Aboriginal culture and Torres Strait Islander culture is valued and respected
- emphasise that partnerships between school, home and community are important
- build cultural competence through two-way planning and decision-making with local community/ies
- offer authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in learning
- embed local culture into the curriculum in culturally sensitive ways
- provide culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal students and Torres Strait Islander students.
Building relationships with local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities is best approached as a whole school. While relationships are always between individuals, it is vital to know what has been done before, how well it has worked, and what other relationships exist between the school and community.
Developing respectful relationships
Schools can establish and maintain reciprocal relationships by adhering to these principles.
- Acknowledge diversity: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and communities are diverse, and there are many different nations and language groups throughout Australia.
- Understand history: Many historical factors since 1770 have had significant impacts on Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some communities are still dealing with intergenerational trauma. A clear understanding of the general and local history offers greater insight for working with your local community.
- Listen: Listening to what communities want, and acting on it, goes a long way toward building positive relationships between schools and communities.
- Respect: Follow community protocols and recognise that the ultimate authority regarding cultural knowledge rests with the local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community.
- Collaborate: Identify the appropriate people in the local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community to consult. Wherever possible, work with community members to make programs, events and learning opportunities relevant and tailored to students’ specific needs.
- Allow time: Time is crucial for developing strong and positive relationships with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. Allocate sufficient time and resources for ongoing consultation.
- Persist: Forming strong relationships takes time and trust. Stay connected and seek advice from people in your local community if you are unsure.
- Working with Aboriginal People and Communities (PDF, 1.7 MB) is a detailed, practical guide.