Community engagement is essential for embedding Indigenous perspectives in schools.
The terms 'partnership' and 'engagement' are often interchanged, but in the context of EATSIPS they are very different concepts.
- Partnership refers to the co-operation between people and groups. It refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples in schools working together for common goals.
- Engagement is a source for institutional change. It refers to a condition of community partnerships becoming operational within the school. Through this area of EATSIPS, schools and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (and individuals) develop genuine partnerships across the school and become part of the school processes. These partnerships will be different for different reasons, outcomes and benefits. If commitments and mutual agreements are in place, partnerships do not have to be redeveloped each time the school staff changes.
In this sense, the commitment of the school to developing strong community partnerships between the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community and the school results in a long-term commitment for engagement built into the school system.
These partnerships and engagement processes work across various aspects of the school and will reduce ad hoc requests from schools for community support.
Community partnerships and engagement between the school and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities provide you with opportunities to:
- form personal relationships based on trust
- empower community members to engage with schools from their own perspectives
- create partnerships central to successfully developing and implementing ‘embedding’ strategies
- evaluate how well Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives have been embedded in the school
- keep up-to-date with current community needs and aspirations.
Successful community engagement is articulated through clear systemic processes that have developed over time, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
These processes should be visible in school policy and practices and aligned to the school’s annual operation plan. They will involve different members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community—local, regional and state.
The following strategies may assist in the development and maintenance of strong community partnerships and engagement:
- Know your community
- understand and acknowledge traditional owners and the historical context of the Country where your school is based
- assign staff to develop, maintain and share a list of local, regional, statewide and national (where relevant) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations
- develop a process that allows all staff to contribute to this list to provide regular updates
- include general lists on shared drives and create confidential filing systems for parents, families and Elders.
- implement place based solutions that reflect the communities’ specific needs
- value commitments—many Indigenous peoples will work with schools as part of their own commitment to the community as a parent or other family member. Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working for government and some community organisations, including education, will also be able to engage in schools during their own work process. However, schools should develop appropriate systems to engage.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and non-profit organisations with agreed pay scales. This includes payment for Welcome to Country, guest speaker programs, artist in residence and general curriculum engagement activities. Appropriate remuneration will depend on individual circumstances, the role or type of engagement and the length of time.
- manage demand—often Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are in high demand for involvement in the school. Develop partnerships with Indigenous peoples and communities by engaging them on a regular or annual basis. Make commitments and establish agreements.