Details of Thesis

Title Indigenous Female Educational Leaders in Northern Territory Remote Community Schools: Issues in negotiating school community partnerships
Author Kamara, Martha Sombo
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2009
Abstract Over the years in the Northern Territory, there has been a growing interest among educators and Indigenous people in remote communities to improve community school leadership and school community partnerships as a means of improving Indigenous school outcomes. This study has investigated and recorded the stories of five Indigenous female school principals in the Top End of the Northern Territory on their leadership approaches in negotiating school community partnerships in their respective communities. The female principals are in many ways regarded as pioneering leaders of their remote community schools in their own right, and are held in high esteem in their communities – qualities which made them ideal participants for this study. The study utilised a Biographic Narrative Interpretive Methodology (BNIM) to record, interpret and analyse the data for the study. Three interviews were conducted with each participant over a period of time. While the study revealed that Indigenous female principals have achieved major advancements in their individual and collective ways in working collaboratively with school communities, they also experienced enormous challenges and constraints in their efforts to demonstrate good educational leadership and work in partnership with their communities. Some of the challenges included their roles as women in an Aboriginal community; balancing school leadership, family and community commitments; and, complexities of working with the mainstream. In narrating their stories, the female principals maintained that cultural values play a significant role in building such relationships and advocated for language and culture to be supported through commitment at the system level. Additionally, they revealed that community school leadership should be flexible and context bound as rigid bureaucratic structures are inappropriate for Indigenous community setting. As such they advocated for culturally appropriate relationships between systems and local communities. Notably, among many other issues, they maintained that all appointments of principals in remote community schools must, at all times, be accompanied by adequate consultation and effective participation of community leaders and/or their relatives and community representatives. Such collaboration and cooperation between communities, schools, and the system is likely to improve relationships between schools and communities. Additionally, the Indigenous female principals in this study emphasised the importance of supporting dimensions of leadership, for example, shared leadership as a reflection and relatedness of their culture. Such dimensions they believe are required for developing and sustaining school community partnerships.
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