The Institute’s work has always been based on the importance of deep listening to First Nations communities with the knowledge that collective sense making can bring better outcomes. We know that when First Nations voices have been heard and embraced, changes have been made for the better.
Schools listening to the community voice
From our interviews and surveys with Stronger Smarter Leadership Program alumni, we know that when schools enact deep listening to the community, this has many positive benefits. This often involves personal changes to conversational processes to ensure greater listening and more respectful conversations, as well as changes to the style of meetings to use circle processes.
One school principal described how listening to the community about what they wanted for their children was important to ensure that the school would meet the needs of the local community. This is so important in remote areas where community have a deep understanding of how best to achieve success for their children.
We inherited the school vision … so actually taking that back to community and having meetings with community and AIEOs to pull apart the vision and what the parents and community wanted for the school. So that wasn’t me as a principal coming in or the teachers coming in and saying this is how the school is going to be. Actually creating space for dialogue and listening to parents and community members. What is it that they want for their children now and into the future and then trying to capture that in the school vision and documentation. So that it was all about the community rather than being directed by school staff.
Principal, WA [alumni interview]
When community feel confident that the school will listen and their ideas and opinions will be valued, this builds much better relationships. This brings greater local cultural knowledge into the school, and the opportunities for non-Indigenous teachers to learn from this rich knowledge. This all contributes to building a more inclusive learning environment.
Another school principal described how it is important to ensure that the local community has confidence that school will listen when they can ask the hard questions about how the school is ensuring the best learning outcomes for their children.
When the community is coming to us and saying to us, “Now what are you doing for our kids in this area?” then we know we’re getting somewhere. I think Stronger Smarter is the vehicle that will give people that courage, that license, to know that that is their right, and the community’s right to say, “What are you doing to strengthen our community, not just in the school but in all the groups, and all of us working together?” That’s a big question, and that’s a big step.
Principal, NSW [alumni interview]
The Stronger Smarter Institute continues to work with schools across the country to ensure that the community voice is enacted within our schools. When the conversation comes from a place of deep listening and all voices are heard, we know that we can see better outcomes in our schools and communities.