Presented by Stephanie Armstrong and Denise Shillinglaw
Weenthunga Health Network (VIC) & Broome High School (WA)
Stephanie Armstrong and Denise Shillinglaw are educators with over 40 years of experience between them in teaching First Australian girls. Their collaboration began when both were working in Broome, Western Australia, and could easily have ended when Stephanie moved from Broome, WA to Bendigo, Vic. Instead the distance of 3,856 km that now lies between them has necessitated creative ways to continue the partnership. Their collaboration has strongly influenced the work they have undertaken in their respective states: while Steph works on the board for Reconciliation Victoria, Denise works as the head of the English Department at Broome High school WA. While each has followed her own distinctly different pathway in her professional life, both women have taken every opportunity to support the other at a personal and professional level. This has in turn influenced the work they have done with First Australian girls in year 9 to 12 in remote Western Australia and regional Victoria respectively. They have arranged cultural exchanges between their two work places for over 30 First Australian young women over the last three years. Participants have spoken openly of these experiences as influencing their career pathways as well as increasing their confidence and self belief.
Steph and Denise will present work that reaffirms the principle that seeing yourself in the curriculum is fundamental to engagement in education. Their workshop will seek to make visible to the audience concepts of “blackness” and the importance of affirming cultural identity in the classroom. It will explore the importance of a curriculum that honours students’ backgrounds and affirms their identity. They will pose the question of whether schools can claim to ‘walk together’ with First Australians without this essential element. Such questions have promoted a “fire in belly” for Denise and Steph to challenge the way they work within systems and the dialogue about personal and cultural identity.
Stephanie and Denise shared story has meant they have written and published the ideas they hope will show the strength in their individual voices articulating the various aspects of this process and that it will encourage others to follow their lead.
Stephanie Armstrong is a Gamilaraay woman from a large extended family from northern NSW. Her husband, two grown daughters and her family members and friends have been supportive of Stephanie’s need to make a difference in Aboriginal Education and health. She is a trained primary school teacher, having taught for over 30 years in rural, remote and urban contexts. This has provided her with the skills and experiences she requires in both her consultancy business and her personal life. Stephanie is on many local committees and on the Victorian Reconcilation Board.
Her work with Weenthunga health network has been focused on supporting local First Australian girls stay at school and seek career pathways into health. This work has seen her establish networks and projects to support many young women in her community. Her role in the community has continued to grow as she works in providing leadership and cultural programs.
Denise Shillinglaw is an English teacher at Broome SHS where she currently delivers the English as an Additional Language or Dialect Course of Study to senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students. Her work in the area of English has included lower and upper school English, Literature and Literacy and recently a more magnified approach to teaching Standard Australian English to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Denise has a specific interest in cross cultural relationships which translate into cross cultural teaching teams in the classroom, as well as developing professional development for educators on a school and district level. Denise completed her Masters Degree in the area of Two Way Education in 2006 and applies these understandings to her work at Broome SHS and the Kimberley District Education Office. She lives in Broome with her partner Paul Boon and two young children.