Our History

A Proud History Founded in Cherbourg. "We didn't go to Cherbourg and give the children a sense of being Strong and Smart. That was inside them already" Chris Sarra. The Stronger Smarter Institute celebrates 10 years of successfully delivering better outcomes for Indigenous students.


Successfully delivering better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students


The Stronger Smarter Institute celebrates more than 12 years of successfully delivering better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, through several decades of passion, belief, and commitment to creating stronger, smarter classrooms and communities.

In the late 1990s, Dr Chris Sarra became the first Aboriginal principal of Cherbourg State School where he made significant changes to the way that Aboriginal students experienced education.

Dr Sarra challenged the whole school community to have High Expectations Relationships (HER) with his students and fostered the ‘strong and smart’ approach which embraced a strong and positive sense of what it means to be Aboriginal in contemporary Australian society.

This success led to the formation of the Stronger Smarter Institute (formerly known as the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute) which was established in 2005 as an innovative partnership between Education Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology.

The Stronger Smarter Institute seeks to achieve scale in delivering the Stronger Smarter Approach to as many Indigenous students possible by partnering with, and working through, school and community leaders.

The Stronger Smarter Leadership Program was developed in 2006, starting with two programs per year, catering to approximately 40  participants.  By 2012, national and regional programs were providing professional development to approximately 250 participants per year.

In 2013 the Institute moved to its next phase of development as an independent, Not-For-Profit organisation with ATO approved deductible gift recipient status in recognition of our aim to positively improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students and ultimately our communities.

By December 2017, the Stronger Smarter Institute had delivered more than 163 Leadership Programs to 2946 educators in more than 800 schools.  This represents a reach of more than 51,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across Australia.  This represents a growth of 90% in the past 3 years.

Learn more about the Cherbourg State School ‘Strong and Smart’ Story: Read a case study on the ‘What Works‘ website.