One of the observations Kurt Beahan makes about himself is that he ‘was never much of a talker’.
Kurt is a 21 year old Narromine man working as an Aboriginal Learning Support Officer in Glenroi Heights Public School, Orange NSW. He is also in his second year of part time study under the Aboriginal Rural Education Program (AREP) at the University of Western Sydney, to pursue his dream of becoming a teacher.
Three or four years ago Kurt had never even thought of studying at university. So what changed his mind? A supportive principal, Jane Cameron, who encouraged him, and Kurt’s experience of the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program.
Kurt came on board as a community participant in the program with the support of a scholarship provided by the Jobs Australia Foundation. His hope was to become part of helping to build a ‘new culture’ of strengthened community-teacher relationships for Glenroi Heights.
“I was thrown in the deep end with the leadership program. I felt a little bit small amongst all the school principals and teachers… reckon I didn’t say a word for the first two days. But by the end, I felt equal… they couldn’t shut me up! And I was inspired to stretch myself towards more of a leadership role.”
When Kurt arrived in Orange, he quickly recognised that community members held strong beliefs about who they trusted, and that he would have to earn their respect. He took on a coaching role in junior rugby league which helped him to build a rapport with local families, and has been involved in community outreach activities to encourage parents to engage with the school through a parent tutor classroom program.
“A lot of staff in our school have participated in the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program, and Jane is committed to that kind of approach. I think this really helps to strengthen the community relationships. For me personally, the program gave me so much more self-confidence… I speak up in class at uni and have formed strong friendships with some really good people there.”