Solid School Staff

New AIEOs (ATAs or AEWs) and other Aboriginal Staff

Recommendations from Sharing Days

It is very important for new Aboriginal staff to be mentored through a buddy system to help them to meet and get to know community members and school families.

It is also important, where possible, to have a balance of gender, age and experience among AIEOs (ATAs or AEWs) employed in the school or area.

Points to consider

  • The role of AIEOs (ATAs or AEWs) is invaluable.
  • AIEOs (ATAs or AEWs) can be a great source of information for staff and students.
  • The role of the AIEOs (ATAS or AEWs) needs to be flexible so they can be where they are needed around the school and in the community.

The role of the principal

It is crucial for the principal to develop his/her relationships with the local community members based on mutual trust, understanding, and genuine care. This way, school community members can relate to the person rather than the position.

Points to consider

  • Some Aboriginal parents and carers may have painful memories of their own schooling and/or have since had unpleasant encounters with principals. This may cause them to be ambivalent about bringing their concerns to the school or the principal.
  • The principal’s office is often seen as a very formal and authoritarian place and can create a power imbalance. Every care should be taken to avoid using the principal’s office for parent and carer interviews and meetings. Instead, try a friendly room or somewhere outside.
  • It is easier for the principal to build relationships with students if she/he is seen around the school, in the classroom and in the schoolyard.
  • Parents/carers and teachers should talk about the achievements and positive attributes of their child.
  • Parents/carers and teachers should have an open door policy so they feel they can approach the school when/if they need to.
  • Principals need to be good listeners, and when there is a problem they should allow the solution to evolve so that everyone feels resolution.
  • Though teachers and principals may come and go, by referring to the school as ‘our school’ they can foster a community sense of connectedness to school staff.

The role of the front office

The first point of contact in the school for parents and visitors is usually the front office. It is through this first contact that impressions are made about the warmth, support and attitudes of the school.

Points to consider

  • The front office should be staffed by caring and sensitive people. Having an Aboriginal staff member in the front office is very helpful.
  • The staff should always project a welcoming atmosphere of friendship and support.
  • It is helpful to have an AIEO (ATA or AEW) involved when enrolling Aboriginal students.
  • The front office is usually the focal point for the welfare of the children. Children should see the office as a place of refuge and support.
  • The office is the perfect place to display the work of children and show off what is going on in the school. Displays are an opportunity to demonstrate the cultural diversity of the school.
  • The office should also reflect the community, with pictures and displays of the local community (e.g. local events can be advertised on a bulletin board).