Issue 8 - 3 September 2012 enews home

Indigenous visionary delivers Lingiari lecture

By Leanne Coleman

Nationally acclaimed Indigenous educator Dr Chris Sarra delivered the 13th annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University

A nationally acclaimed Indigenous educator, who encourages students to break negative stereotypes, has delivered the 13th annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture at Charles Darwin University.

Stronger Smarter Institute Executive Director Dr Chris Sarra presented “Stronger Smarter Aboriginal Policy Reform: like Vincent, we know how to wait…”.

As the first principal of Cherbourg State School in south-east Queensland, Dr Sarra became nationally acclaimed for the Strong and Smart philosophy, which aims to “smash” the negative stereotypes plaguing Indigenous students throughout Australia.

“The philosophy aims to instill a strong and positive sense of what it means to be Aboriginal in today’s Australian society and encourages students to develop high expectations for themselves and achieve outcomes comparable to other students,” Dr Sarra said.

The youngest of 10 children, Dr Sarra experienced first-hand many of the issues faced by Indigenous students throughout their schooling. “It wasn’t until I went to teachers’ college and was encouraged and inspired by various lecturers and mentors that I realised I had sold myself short in most of my schooling,” he said.

“It got me thinking, how many other Indigenous kids out there had sold themselves short because of negative stereotyping or lack of belief in their ability.” 

Dr Sarra said his philosophy at the school was underpinned by a fundamentally humanist approach that saw the community and school working together to effect dramatic change in areas of community connectedness, student engagement and educational outcomes; the process ultimately becoming the Stronger Smarter philosophy.

Dr Sarra now runs leadership activities for school and community leaders through the Stronger Smarter Institute, based on this core philosophy.

His lecture focused on the challenges facing Aboriginal people in Indigenous policy reform and how the implementation of effective educational programs such as the Stronger Smarter philosophy can help improve educational outcomes.

The annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture series commemorates the Wave Hill Station walk-off led by Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people in August 1966. The walk-off led to the handing back of the Wave Hill Station to the Gurindji people, and acted as the catalyst for Aboriginal people to have their rights to traditional lands recognised.

Dr Sarra’s Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture took place on the 37th anniversary of the handing back of Wave Hill Station.