‘In a society where social inequity exists, educators can decide whether they continue to support the status quo, or deliberately choose to challenge these inequities.’  

Stronger Smarter Institute, 2017, p.4 

A key principle of the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP) is the belief that every educator can challenge the status quo and take a personalResponsibility for Change.’  The Stronger Smarter Approach is not just about the tools, practices, and strategies that participants take away from our programsIt is much more profoundAfter attending our programs, alumni see themselves differently and, as a result, view their role in the world differently.

Celebrate our ‘partners in change’.

During 2023, we have welcomed over 490 more deadly educators to the Stronger Smarter Approach through our Leadership and Workplaces programs.  As we finish the year, our program facilitation team are undertaking follow up sessions hearing stories of the transformative change these educators are instigating in their schools.  To these educators, and to all our ‘partners in change, we send our heartfelt thanks for your work in ensuring quality learning environments for all our Jarjums. 

I really valued the Stronger Smarter Approach in changing attitudes beliefs and values.

Koorie Engagement Support Officer, VIC [Alumni survey 2022]


Responsibility for change 

This ability to re-think how we see the world is essential to providing a quality education for First Nations students within an education system built on western values.  In the Institute’s position paper on Responsibility for change, we describe how Australia still has an entrenched culture of framing First Nations people through a narrow lens of crisis and failure.  Our education system has been complicit in telling a story where much is still left unsaid.   

The SSLP aims to put educators in a space where they feel they have agency and can reject these attempts to externalise the blame for poor student outcomes.  It is about having high expectations for our Jarjums, rather than of them.  As the Stronger Smarter Institute’s Executive Chairman, Dr Chris Sarra, has described, high expectations need to be negotiated with the individuals affected, not imposed from the outside (even if with good intentions). [i] 

Research continually suggests that changing mindsets is not easy.  However, our evidence shows that after attending the SSLP, participants really do think differently. [ii]   

It’s hard to change non-indigenous mindset as an individual but once they complete the stronger smarter program, they seem to open their eyes and their perspective changes
Principal, remote school, WA [Alumni Survey 2022]

In our 2022 Alumni Survey [iii], alumni told us that taking the time to reflect highlighted how being embedded in a culture often means taking for granted that a particular cultural view is the ‘right way’ to do things.  Alumni describe seeing students and families through different lenses and opening their eyes to the impact that the, often out of awareness, deficit narrative can have on students. 

The truth is that the challenge is the system, not the students.  
Stronger Smarter Institute, 2020, p.6

As we start to prepare for another year working, we continue to reflect on the provocation, ‘when challenged, how do you respond?’   Working together with our partners in change, the Institute continues to respond with possibility.   We continue to build on the work that Dr Chris Sarra commenced, reflecting on his continual reminder to build relationships based on strengths and shared humanity. 

In 2015, writing in The Guardian, Dr Sarra wrote about the need to ensure that all our programs are designed to acknowledge the humanity of First Nations Australians and understand and appreciate their culture. 

Let the goodness of our humanity manifest in a way that sees us more deeply connected day to day, and together committed to changing what needs to change, letting us be the nation we want to believe we are.
Dr Chris Sarra.  The Guardian, 2015 [iv]

In a 2015 lecture to the Australian Senate [v], Dr Sarra talked about ensuring that we develop high expectations relationships, not just high expectations rhetoric, and ensuring that we do things ‘with people’, not ‘to people’.  

If we start the relationship in which our strengths and humanity are acknowledged and embraced, and we are convinced of an authentic sense of hope for all, then our hearts can truly beat closely together, and our compasses can be calibrated for an exciting, sometimes bumpy, yet honourable journey into the future.  
Dr Chris Sarra, 2015, Senate Occasional Lecture 

Join us in 2024!

At the Institute, we continue to respond with possibility and challenge the status quo as we support educators to ensure the best possible education for all our Jarjums. 

Our 2024 program calendar is now open.  If you haven’t already undertaken our Stronger Smarter Leadership Program, make sure you join us next year. 

Read more:

If you would like to know more, our Position Paper on Responsibility for Change describes how every educator can take a personal role in ensuring a quality learning environment for our Jarjums. 


[i] Sarra, C. (2015).  Delivering beyond Indigenous Policy Rhetoric. Speech Transcript.  Occasional lecture to the Australian Senate.  SBS NITV

[ii]Stronger Smarter Institute (2019).  A mindset change:  How the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program supports educators to enact high expectations in Indigenous education.  Stronger Smarter Reports – Stronger Smarter

[iii] Results of the 2022 Stronger Smarter Census.  Stronger Smarter Reports – Stronger Smarter

[iv] Sarra, C. (2015).  We must look to our humanity to solve the crisis of Indigenous education.  The Guardian, 22 Jan 2015.

[v] Sarra, C. (2015).  Delivering beyond Indigenous Policy Rhetoric. Speech Transcript.  Occasional lecture to the Australian Senate.  SBS NITV