Traditionally, ‘community engagement’ has been thought of as an activity that is controlled by the school to gain feedback – often on decisions that have already been made. 

The Stronger Smarter Approach is a fundamental rethinking of community engagement towards a dynamic vision of community empowerment.   This moves from ‘engagement’ as an activity to solve problems or ‘modify the out of school context’ to ‘empowerment’ as a sustainable process embedded across all school functions.  Rather than trying to move the community into the school sphere, this is a process where the school moves to meet the community sphere.

This shifts the locus of control from the school to the community.  Community engagement moves from being the last thing on the list, or something to ‘tick the box’, to being upfront as a core way of doing business for the school. 

Community empowerment model 

In a community empowerment model, community voices are privileged in all aspects of education.  This sees multiple voices involved in the decisions about what a quality education and quality outcomes should look like. These are authentic partnerships where families are engaged in the whole process of conceptualisation, planning, enactment and evaluation of school policies, teaching strategies and curriculum.  This is a shared two-way engagement – a true partnership sharing both aspirations and achievements.

Developing a framework 

The Institute has been funded by the NIAA Children and Schooling Programme to run a pilot and develop a framework for a community empowerment model in schools.  Building from successful projects working with communities in the Bundaberg and Logan areas of Queensland, the Stronger Smarter Approach – How to Sustain Community Empowerment project is extending to remote areas in NSW, Queensland and WA.

We are excited to be working the following communities to support co-design processes between the community and the school to develop their own processes for working together to envision, plan and enact high expectations across the school community.

  • Wiradjuri country – Condobolin, Western NSW
  • Lardil, Yangkaal, Kaiadilt and Gangalidda people of Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland
  • Lundjah (Red Hill), Nicholson, Mardiwahloop and Halls Creek town communities in the Kimberley, WA
  • Djarindjin Lombadina Aboriginal Community on the northern part of the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, WA

Our work will help to contribute to the evidence base about how a community-led approach can help improve school engagement and attendance.

Funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency