NGS Super Scholarship Awards – Yvonne Terweeme’s story

17 Jul 2020 3 min read

Igniting the spark for a shared purpose

A secondment to St Therese’s Community Parish School in Wilcannia, not far from the banks of the Darling River, was where it all started for Yvonne Terweeme.

Completely immersing herself, Yvonne lived and worked within the Paarkandji Indigenous community where the isolated school was located. When she returned to Bethany Catholic Primary School in Glenmore Park, New South Wales, she felt compelled to further incorporate Indigenous culture into her curriculum.

“After being so welcomed and involved at Wilcannia, being a teacher you just want to help in any way you can. Although Indigenous learning is part of the curriculum already, I felt it needed to be embraced more,” she says.

Discovering the perfect leadership program to equip her with the skills she needed to create change, Yvonne saw that the NGS Super Scholarship Awards were opening and thought the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I think there’s a really strong need for more Indigenous culture in schools. We already have Jarrara, an Indigenous support unit who work closely with Catholic schools in our state to share culture. I really wanted to extend upon their offering, and I also wanted to be part of a broader network advocating for more Indigenous culture in curriculum.”

Being a stronger and smarter leader

After winning an NGS Super Scholarship Award, Yvonne used her funds to undertake the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program.

“I learnt how to navigate challenging conversations with staff and students and it really brought together all the elements of what good leaders do – but most importantly, it focused on how to engage the school community to have high expectations relationships.”

“If we have high expectations of all students, regardless of their background, that’s how we achieve amazing things. It’s all about working to achieve quality relationships with staff, parents and children and how we can all work together to get the best out of everybody.”

Yvonne gained skills to support the success of all children, especially by embracing and developing a positive sense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and leadership in schools — and she’s already seeing the impact at her own school.

“Utilising skills I learnt through the program, I’ve been able to implement Indigenous language and culture back into our school. Teaching our Grade 1 children how to do acknowledgment to country is one example of how to integrate Indigenous culture into the curriculum, not just in a tokenistic way. Educating other staff members was also critical.”

All the little things

Looking to the future, Yvonne wants to have yarning circles with elders of the community to discuss how to best teach Indigenous language at her school.

“It’s never finished – the goal is to create a conversation with Indigenous elders in our community. Yarning circles involve speaking and listening from the heart, it’s a place of respect where there is equal power and we can come together to learn from each other.”

Yvonne has also taken up the opportunity to develop her skills further.

“I’ve been accepted to complete another Stronger Smarter Leadership Program which focuses on incorporating indigenous knowledge into STEM. Unfortunately, it’s been delayed due to COVID-19 but I’m really excited to learn more when the course starts in September.”

Read more about the NGS Super Scholarship Awards.

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