Board Director, Tammy Anderson is the principal at Briar Road Public School.  She spoke to us about the role the Stronger Smarter Institute has played in her leadership journey.

“It is an absolute privilege to be a principal at Briar Road Public School, the school that I went to as a little girl. I finished there in 1990 as a Strong and Smart 12-year-old and was the first Aboriginal school captain.  So, there is a very personal story wound up in my leadership,”  Tammy says.  “I get the privilege to lead a very talented school staff in a community that deserves nothing but the best.   Socio-economically to look at our school on paper, people would think, using old language, it is somewhat of a disadvantaged school community, but I see it as pure advantage. Our kids are the most talented and gifted kids that I could possibly ask to have a school made up of, and the community are very, very supportive.” Tammy says that she loves the fact that she has the opportunity to teach people who are second or third generation people that she grew up with and or is related to.  “It’s a beautiful spot and having the opportunity for my own children to attend the school is something I feel really blessed about both professionally and personally,” she says.

Briar Road Public School has 284 students, where around 43% are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.  Tammy says that while their work is important for all students, it is particularly important in the space of making sure the First Nations students are well prepared and receive the education they deserve.  One of the things they have done to ensure this support is that they have 12 Aboriginal staff out of a total of 47 staff. “We are really building that out,” Tammy says. “It is nice to have community members working in our school in a range of capacities from the front office to executive staff to teaching to support staff. So, it is very robust representing lots of different nations.”

Tammy says that it has been important to build a school where all staff, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, really value Aboriginal education.  “What we are aiming to achieve has been a highlight in my career,” she says. “Watching a collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people tells me that is the way we can do it.  Given we make up 3% of the populations, we need our non-Aboriginal staff to be heavy lifting as much as we are heavy lifting.  It’s given me a great sense of pride, but also the knowledge that two-ways can be done in many ways.”

This work has led to a the school being recognised for their work in Aboriginal Education with innovative professional learning and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The Stronger Smarter Leadership Program

Tammy recalls first hearing about Chris Sarra as a young teacher.  “I had heard about his work,” she says.  “His work out of Cherbourg was gathering momentum, so I watched from afar and had a vision that maybe one day I would have an opportunity to meet him.”  Tammy says when NSW put out a tender for teachers to go along to the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program, she applied, but missed out the first time.  She eventually got the opportunity to attend the program at Cherbourg in 2012. Tammy says, “It’s so unique to be on country hearing the story of the school, sitting in the ration shed, meeting the people who have been on the journey with Chris. There was a feeling I was going to get something great out of it, it was not going to be like anything else I had done and that really excited me.  I like to go against the grain, and I think there is many a way we have not explored yet for what works for our kids.”

Six months after attending the SSLP, Tammy had the opportunity to apply for the position as Principal at Briar Road.  She says that although she had less experience than others, she felt from Stronger Smarter she had learnt a lot about herself as a leader and what she could bring to the leadership space. “I was really supported by Stronger Smarter because of what I’d learnt there six months earlier, it was really driving my commitment,” she says.

Stronger Smarter Institute Board

Tammy explains that taking on the position on the Board of the Stronger Smarter Institute has sat parallel to her leadership journey in a school.  “I have grown as a leader, grown through the Institute and then an opportunity to sit on the board to support its direction and future,” she says.

Reflecting on what she has learnt from her involvement with the Board, Tammy says, “I have learnt that it truly does take a village.  The board is one part of the Institute.  The other part is the operations and the talent within the operations. The talent lies at the coal face, the facilitators who are out there on the road engaging with communities.”

Tammy says the growth of the Institute has been a combined effort.  “People like Chris who continues to be the Chairman, setting high expectations on the governance front.  The visions and values and the principles that underpin the Institute not only sit within the operation but are also the things we abide by and follow through to their very core as a board,” Tammy says.

When asked what she would like to see in the future for the Institute, Tammy says, “The Stronger Smarter Institute already occupies the space it aspires to; however, we could scale up in our offerings. I’d like to see the program used in the pre-service space to get teachers evaluating their values and what they bring to the classroom before they enter the system. We are quite strong in a number of states but there are still emerging spaces we could move into.   I’d also like to see us continue in that research space to be able to share our findings in terms of our work.  I certainly see that we have the talent on board both in governance and in operations.  I think these are spaces we can grow in, and we’ve got a fantastic team to do it. I am excited to see what unfolds in our journey as an Institute forging the way in Indigenous Education.”