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Indigenous educator receives courage award

Antony Perry

12 May 2017: University of Canberra Professor of Education Chris Sarra has spent his entire career working for better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and on 10 May his efforts were once again recognised.

Professor Sarra received the Anthony Mundine Award for Courage at the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards event held at Parliament House.

“It is a tremendous honour to receive this award,” Professor Sarra said.

“It’s so nice to have my efforts acknowledged and the efforts of those who have worked with me to deliver on the promise of a stronger, smarter future.”

Professor Sarra, the founder of the Stronger Smarter Institute, is a highly regarded Aboriginal educator.

The Stronger Smarter Institute works with schools and community leaders across Australia to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and builds on what Professor Sarra achieved as principal of the Cherbourg State School in the early 2000s.

Professor Sarra challenged the entire school community to have high expectations of Indigenous students and fostered the ‘strong and smart’ approach, which embraced a strong and positive sense of what it means to be Aboriginal in contemporary Australian society.

The Stronger Smarter Institute has built on this approach and is committed to improving educational and life outcomes. The program has been implemented in over 500 schools and has reached more than 38,000 Indigenous students since it was established in 2005.

“When I think of courage, I think of the children, parents and community of Cherbourg who, when I asked them to embrace the notion that we could be strong and smart, rose to the challenge,” Professor Sarra said.

“It would have been easier to cling to the victim status, but instead they took the hard road and rose to the challenge to become strong and smart.

“Because of this, other Aboriginal communities and the teaching profession came to believe that Aboriginal children, regardless of where they come from, could become stronger and smarter.”

At the University of Canberra, Professor Sarra teaches and researches in school leadership, Indigenous education, and educational equity in East Asia and Australia.

He also collaborates with the University's Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis on education and social policy research.

Earlier this year, Professor Sarra was included in a new advisory group set up to help the federal government transform its relationship with Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia.

“I am truly humbled to receive this award and am honoured to continue to serve my magnificent people and my magnificent profession,” he said.