Presented by Lois Peeler AM
Executive Director, Worawa Aboriginal College
At the opening of Worawa Aboriginal College in 1983, Aboriginal Visionary and Founder Hyllus Maris described the Worawa College approach:
“To effectively answer the particular needs of Aboriginal students… the approach should be holistic…the curriculum should reflect a “whole education” approach. It should aim to develop not only the student’s intellectual prowess and physical fitness but also his/her mental capacity, moral values, emotional and spiritual growth into a balanced whole. It should be based on the best elements of both traditional Aboriginal and current Australian education, aiming to produce an Aboriginal person versed in his traditions and proud of his identity who has the tools and necessary qualifications to contribute effectively to the Australian community.”
Based on this philosophy, Worawa Aboriginal College has developed an educational model that enables the best of Aboriginal and mainstream Australian learning.
Aboriginal culture is central to the Worawa Model and Aboriginal cultural diversity, values, history and contemporary issues are embedded across the program. Aboriginal identity is affirmed through recognition of a student’s Language Group, Family Clan, Spirit Ancestor, Moiety and Totem which encourages them to flourish in an environment where culture is celebrated, an element critical to the social and emotional wellbeing of students and nurtures love of culture, family, community and learning.
The Worawa Model involves the learning and teaching program addressing the key learning areas of the Australian Curriculum whilst featuring and/or taking into account Aboriginal culture, values, spiritual beliefs and learning styles. The learning and teaching program has been designed to educate the whole person across all domains of their development cultural, social, emotional, physical, spiritual and cognitive/academic. Personalised Learning in all areas complements this and attests to the commitment to valuing what each girl brings to the College as the basis for further learning.
The importance and value of family and community involvement in education and Indigenous leadership of education are foundational to providing students with a “learning journey” which will equip them to operate fully within their first culture, the western scientific community and as global citizens.
Lois Peeler AM is the Executive Director / Principal of Worawa Aboriginal College. From Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve, throughout her life Lois’ family worked tirelessly to improve conditions for Aboriginal people and were instrumental in the establishment of Aboriginal health, legal and education services. They created the first-ever independent Aboriginal secondary school in the early 1980s, Worawa Aboriginal College.
Lois has extensive experience in Aboriginal Affairs having worked in the Aboriginal community sector, the State and Federal public service sector and in the corporate sector. She was Assistant Director of the Aborigines Advancement League before moving to the public sector where she worked for sixteen years at a senior level within Federal and State Government departments managing Aboriginal Affairs. She has held numerous directorships in Indigenous Affairs and the tourism industry.
In 2003 Lois received a Centenary Medal for her work in Indigenous Tourism. She was co-author of the Respecting Our Culture (ROC) accreditation program for the Australian tourism industry. Co-author of the Yorta Yorta Language Heritage Program and author of the Aboriginal Oral History of the Flats of Mooroopna / Shepparton, and Director of “The Flats” DVD.
Lois is on a range of Indigenous community organisations a member of the Centre for Strategic Education Indigenous Education Focus Group, Member of the Victorian Indigenous Education Network, Member of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee and Chair of the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.
In June 2014, Lois was made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia. The award was made for her “significant service to the Indigenous community as an educator, advocate and role model”.