Working with the School

Parents and carers in school partnerships

  • Try to talk school up with your kids. Ask them what they have done at school and be positive about school.
  • Try not to tell them bad stories about your time at school. Let them try it for themselves. They might like it.
  • Go to the school at drop-off and/or pickup. Talk with your kid’s AIEO (ATA or AEW) or teacher. You don’t have to have an issue to talk to the teacher.
  • Try to go to assemblies to see what is happening at the school and to see your kid doing things.
  • Volunteer to be on the School Planning Committee. You can make sure the school develops guidelines and practices that acknowledge Aboriginal worldviews and support your kids.
  • Tell the AIEO (ATA or AEW) or teacher about how your kids are feeling.
  • Check with the teacher every now and then to see how your kids are going at school.

It is not always possible to go to everything at the school, but try to go as often as you can to support your kids at assemblies and other school events (e.g. sports days). Parents and carers have the right to go to the school and talk to their kid’s teachers. If you want to have a big yarn with the AIEO (ATA or AEW), teacher or principal, it might be helpful to make an appointment. This will show the school that you want to work together to support your kids.

What is the school doing about bullying?

What can parents and carers do to help the school deal with bullying?

By working with the school, parents and carers can develop a partnership to support their kids in the home and school environment. Ask the AIEO (ATA or AEW) and other Aboriginal staff what the school is doing to support Aboriginal kids who bully or are bullied at school. Also try these things:

  • Encourage your kids to talk about bullying both at school and at home.
  • Be very clear about how you want your kids to behave and always expect this.
  • If you say you are going to give a punishment or a reward, always follow through.
  • Tell your kids when they have been behaving well.
  • Show kids how you want them to behave by behaving this way yourself.
  • Make sure your kids, young ones and older ones, are being supervised so you know where they are and what they are doing.
  • Try to make sure you have contact with your kids when they are not with you, so you know who they are with and where they are likely to be going.
  • Get your older ones to call you when they are out so you know they are safe.

Talking to the school about a bullying issue

No matter what age your kids are, it is very important for them to see their parents and carers and the school working together.

If your kids are being bullied or are bullying other kids at school, it is important that you work with his or her teachers to help him/her. Always discuss things with your kids before you take action; if you don’t, you might hurt your relationship with them.

Things to think about when you approach the school:

  • Speak to the AIEO (ATA or AEW) to discuss what has happened. Ask them about the school’s bullying prevention and management guidelines and practises. Ask the AIEO (ATA or AEW) what they recommend you do
  • Make a time to see the teacher or principal to discuss what has happened. You might want to ask the AIEO (ATA or AEW) to go with you.
  • This may be the first time the teacher or principal has heard about the bullying.
  • Your kids may not have told you all the facts.
  • Ask the teacher what he or she suggests would help your kid.
  • It is a good idea to arrange a follow-up meeting with the teacher (and AIEO (ATA or AEW)) to discuss what happened with any action that was proposed.

What if the bullying continues?

Bullying in school can only be resolved if parents and carers, teachers and kids work together to find a solution. However, sometimes parents and kids are not satisfied with the way their school deals with their worries. If you feel this way, here are some things you can do:

    • Bullying can be complicated and hard to solve. Try to be patient and give the school time to sort it out.
    • Keep a record of what your kid says is happening; you might want to mention this when you speak to the AIEO (ATA or AEW), teacher or principal.
    • Write a note to the teacher telling them the issue is still not fixed.
    • Make another appointment to see the teacher as soon as possible.
    • If you are not happy with a teacher’s response, do not give up. Speak to someone else – perhaps another teacher or the head teacher; ask the AIEO (ATA or AEW) for some suggestions.

Schools will generally do their best to deal with bullying; sometimes there may be cases where schools cannot sort out issues. For example, if bullying takes place outside school or in cases of serious assault or harassment, it may be difficult for a school to deal with it.

Many issues that kids face in the community carry over into the school; school staff don’t know about everything that happens outside the school grounds. It is a good idea to let the AIEO (ATA or AEW) or teacher know if you think something happening out of school will affect your kids when they are in school.



Yamaji is the collective name for Aboriginal people in the Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia (see map below). More than 300 Yamaji people (children, parents and carers, Elders and Aboriginal school staff) from twelve school communities participated in the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project.

What does the term ‘solid’ mean?

‘Solid’ – in this website the term ‘solid’ is used to refer to something being good, positive or likeable. We believe that in order for schools with Aboriginal students to be solid, they must work with their Aboriginal staff, listen to their Aboriginal students and reach out to the Aboriginal families in their school community.

Solid Kids, Solid Schools

Solid Kids, Solid Schools is a research project that has aimed to collect cultural understandings of bullying among Yamaji children and their communities. The project has also worked with Yamaji school communities to develop relevant and culturally secure bullying prevention and management strategies. Read more about the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project.

Cultural security

Cultural security recognises the ‘legitimate cultural rights, values and expectations of Yamaji (Aboriginal) people’ (Western Australian Health Department, no date). Culturally secure bullying prevention and management strategies are being developed and maintained in consultation with local Yamaji people to provide community brokerage and guidance on local protocol (Coffin, 2007).

Knowledge of Aboriginal culture and customs are formalised in school guidelines and practice for managing and reducing bullying among Aboriginal students (Coffin, 2007). e.g. School principals commit to regular consultation with AIEOs, Aboriginal parents/carers and Elders to form bullying prevention and management policy that ensures culturally relevant practice occurs.

Cultural Safety – Knowledge of Aboriginal culture and customs informally influences school guidelines and practice for managing and reducing bullying among Aboriginal students (Coffin, 2007).
e.g. School principals enlist Aboriginal staff such as AIEOs to build and strengthen school – community relationships by learning and celebrating Aboriginal culture and to assist in addressing bullying prevention and management with Aboriginal students and their families.

Cultural Awareness – Knowledge of Aboriginal culture and customs are general with little or no application to school guidelines or practice for managing and reducing bullying among Aboriginal students (Coffin, 2007).
e.g. The school principal acknowledges Aboriginal culture is different to non-Aboriginal culture but fails to enlist Aboriginal staff such as Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer/s (AIEOs) to assist with bullying prevention and management among Aboriginal students.


Elders are local Aboriginal community members who are deemed to have knowledge both culturally and historically for the region in which they reside. Elders, with their cultural and spiritual guidance, are the link to the past and future.

AIEO (Aboriginal Islander Education Officer)

AIEO (Aboriginal Islander Education Officer) is a non-teaching Aboriginal staff member who supports Aboriginal students and their families within the school. The term AIEO is unique to the Western Australian Department of Education and Training (DET). In the Catholic Education Office (CEO) a similar role is filled by an Aboriginal Teacher’s Assistant (ATA) or Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO); in the Independent School sector the title for this role is Aboriginal Education Worker (AEW).

Sharing Days

Sharing Days In 2008 the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project held Sharing Days in Geraldton, Meekatharra, Shark Bay and Carnarvon. These Sharing Days were attended by AIEOs (ATAs or AEWs) and Aboriginal teachers to discuss ways to support Yamaji students involved in bullying.


Winyarn is a Yamaji term to describe someone who is seen as not being strong. It is also used by some other language groups throughout Western Australia. It can be used to describe: the way someone is feeling, a situation, or the way another person looks. It can also be used in a fun, joking way; sometimes it is used to be mean – for example, if it is said as a reason why someone is picked on: ‘because they are just winyarn’.


Yarning is a term used to describe informal chatting or talking. Yarning can also mean spreading rumours or, in a derogatory manner, as someone ‘carrying a yarn’ that is not true. Today, many Aboriginal young people use their mobile phone for yarn carrying.

Yamaji wangi

Yamaji wangi means ‘Yamaji talk’. On this website, the following symbol  is used to highlight Yamaji wangi and notes and quotes collected from Yamaji community members who participated in the Solid Kids, Solid Schools project.

Aboriginal protocols

Aboriginal protocols vary according to local customs. For this reason it is important to engage local Elders and community members to assist in the development of any strategy that focuses on Aboriginal students. A protocol is important for developing trust and two-way respect: the local Aboriginal people (AIEOs, ATAs, AEWs and Aboriginal health workers) are the best people to ask about which protocols to observe.

Family feuding

Family feuding is used to describe long-lasting feelings of anger or hostility between particular families. Feuding can affect the relationships that some children have at school and out of school. In some instances feuding has been going on for many years, and sometimes children are involved without knowing why they are ‘not allowed’ to be friends with another family or child.


Payback is when someone or a group of people take action towards another person or group of people to repay them for past hurt or mistreatment. The action is usually done with the intention to hurt or shame the other person or group of people.


Shame is more than feeling embarrassed or ashamed; for Aboriginal people it refers to being made to feel different or singled out. Shame can be a matter concerning what can be discussed and by whom, and it can be about gender differences, personal and sexual matters.


A bystander is someone or a group of people who see, support or know about bullying that is happening.