Jardibirrijba group and facilitators at Redcliffe QLD
First Nations Women have long been the strong backbone that provide support and structure to Indigenous communities across Australia. The Stronger Smarter Institute’s acknowledges this strength through a new initiative known as the Teachers of STEM Initiative (ToSI).
ToSI ‘s primary focus is to provide various supports and mentoring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to assist them in their journey to becoming qualified teachers specialising in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Institute believes that increasing the number of Indigenous women qualified to teach these subjects, will assist in transforming the STEM experience for all students, including opportunities for Indigenous students in STEM classrooms across Australia.
The first stage of ToSI, the Jardibirrijba program, was launched earlier this year in January. Seventeen women from across NSW, QLD, NT and WA gathered for a two–day face to face program in Redcliffe, QLD. Jardibirrijba, which literally translates to ‘make strong’ in Waanyi-Garrawa language, refers to looking at STEM through an Indigenous Knowledge, strength–based lens. In doing this we engage our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in seeing STEM through positioning Indigenous Knowledges at the forefront – ‘making our ways strong’.
Across the two days of the Jardibirrijba program, the women were taken through a series of Stronger Smarter processes which focussed on High Expectation Relationships and Strength Based approaches. This gave the women an opportunity to share the strengths they bring, the space to listen and understand strengths that they all bring as a group to collaborate, to network, to be mentors and to support each other. This time also provided the women with a toolkit for their learning journey. The women were asked to reflect on their experience and overwhelmingly they were excited and inspired to take on the role as catalysts in this unique initiative.
The program culminated with a presentation from Teachers of STEM Initiative steering committee member, Associate Professor Grace Sarra of Queensland University of Technology. A/Prof Sarra shared her educational journey with participants and reflected on the Strong and Smart philosophy.
Participants returned to their home communities to embark on becoming STEM qualified teachers.