IN 1984, I was a seventeen year-old Aboriginal youth just finishing school. I had a Tertiary Entrance score that told me I was average and that I only had the capacity to do some type of agricultural course if I was serious about entertaining the notion of study beyond high school. Fortunately for me, what is now the Queensland University of Technology was running a program designed to encourage more Aboriginal people into teaching. I enrolled and my mentor there Gary MacLennan taught me a great deal, most importantly to see myself positively regardless of how others with limited expectations perceived me. What started off as a lucky break saw me, many years later, graduating with a PhD in psychology and on a continuing journey to challenge other educators to believe in the learning capacity of indigenous Australians. For part of this journey I took on the role of Cherbourg State School’s first Aboriginal principal.
Cherbourg State School is an Aboriginal Community School about 300 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. Cherbourg itself was formerly a mission or reserve where Aboriginal people from as far north as Cooktown and as far west as Quilpie were rounded up and dumped to be taught to be less Aboriginal.
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