A program has been providing educational opportunities and graduating Indigenous teachers for remote Indigenous schools in the Northern Territory.
The Growing Our Own program recently graduated three Indigenous students from Charles Darwin University (CDU) with a Bachelor of Education Primary, while ten graduated with a higher education Diploma or Bachelor of Education Studies.
The program had an impressive 67 percent retention rate and a 90 percent employment rate, considerably higher than national standards.
Growing Our Own was a joint project between CDU and Catholic Education Northern Territory (CENT), with funding from the Federal Government which ran from 2009 to 2020, when 24 students graduated with a teaching degree.
Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic School teacher Rachel Puantulura, the final teacher to graduate from the program, said she feels privileged to teach in her home community of Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu) on Bathurst Island in the Tiwi Islands.
“I started as a Teacher’s Aid and now I’m graduating from CDU with a Bachelor of Education Primary. I’m so happy to be working here. I’m born and bred, and my family and friends are here. This is my home,” Ms Puantulura said.
CDU College of Indigenous Futures, Education, and the Arts, Senior Lecturer in Education, Dr Cris Edmonds-Wathen, who coordinated the program, said it focused on upskilling existing local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Assistant Teachers, Teacher Aides and school staff by enrolling them in the Bachelor of Education Primary through CDU.
“Most lecturing and studying was done on site and contextualised to make it more accessible for students who could not leave the community due to family commitments,” Dr Edmonds-Wathen said.
“We graduated fully-qualified Indigenous teachers for remote Indigenous schools while maintaining the intercultural aspirations of Indigenous communities in the NT,” she said.
In 2017 the program won the CDU Vice-Chancellor’s Award for outstanding contributions to student learning
CENT Placement Coordinator Geoff Perry said that when there is teacher turnover it can lead to a lack of continuity making it difficult for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who often struggle to meet national education standards.
“Catholic schools in remote communities strive to maintain continuity of program delivery and to deliver quality teaching by experienced teachers who understand the local environment,” Mr Perry said.
“We used a holistic approach to on-country delivery, whereby pre-service teachers study in their home communities while working as Assistant Teachers,” he said.
Pre-service teachers worked three days a week and had two days off to study, so they could earn while they learned. Support was provided to graduate teachers to enable smooth transition from working as Assistant Teachers to Registered Teachers.