Utilise local expertise

Teacher aide with student

Indigenous Education Workers (IEWs) are known by a variety of titles depending on the jurisdiction in which they work. Their roles and responsibilities are many and varied.

Today, IEWs carry out much the same responsibilities as they did 50 years ago and work in schools where significant numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are enrolled. They promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, and in some jurisdictions IEWs work closely with teachers to develop culturally appropriate resources and programs. Importantly, IEWs are there as a support for the teachers, for the students and for parents/caregivers.

IEWs work with the school and individual teachers in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve the best possible outcomes, as well as keeping members of the community informed about parent meetings, school activities, programs and any changes that might be taking place. They also are in a position to keep parents/caregivers informed in relation to students’ progress and other achievements. Where a teacher is not fluent in the local language, IEWs can translate from one language to another quickly and effectively.

An IEW can assist a teacher with important knowledge about the school community; for example, whether the family has a phone; who is growing the child; where the child is living at present; the ability of family members to respond quickly; and if perhaps they are dealing with grief.  (It’s a good idea to make a note of this information so that you have the details to hand when developing a PLP [Personal Learning Plan]; that way you won’t risk insulting someone by making them think they are not important enough to be remembered.)