Rather, it reverberates through the grounds as if the heartbeat of the school community. 

The first thing students hear after the morning school bell rings, is an Acknowledgement of Country, designed and delivered by one of their peers. 

And when students need to visit another classroom, they carry with them an artfully decorated message stick, symbolising respectful entry. 

This unique approach to Aboriginal education has a lot to do with principal Kym Hawes, who was recognised this year with a Nanga Mai Award for Outstand-ing Leadership in Aboriginal Education. 

Hawes has been at the helm for at least 10 years, beginning her leadership journey as acting principal before officially taking on the role. 

Throughout her career in education, reconciliation has always been an issue close to her heart.

“In all of that time, I have known that reconciliation is a critical issue for all Australians, and so I’ve had it as one of my areas that I wanted to grow in the school,” Hawes explains.

“[Students are] in primary school for seven years, and each year you want to layer knowledge and understandings in place, so that by the time the students exit in Year 7, they’ve had seven years of layered learning to understand the reconciliation journey that we’re all on,” she continues.

The school serves 67 Indigenous students, yet the principal says Aboriginal culture is “everybody’s business”. 

“I think the non-Indigenous students enjoy it a lot … that chance to participate in classroom discussions or debating or public speaking,” she says.

NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week and Sorry Day are all big events on the school calendar, eagerly awaited by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike.

“We have been able to go back in history and really be able to explore the important issues, and the safety of the classroom is a good place to do that because the children can express themselves, ask questions and it’s a safe learning environment. 

“So they’re never worried about asking the wrong question,” Hawes says.

Even sausage sizzles at the school take on an Indigenous flavour. 

“It’s hard to resist a barbecue with kangaroo sausages,” Hawes says, laughing.

“We give them a taste of it in NAIDOC Week when the Kindies might just have a little taste, but by the time they’ve had kangaroo sausages for seven years they’re mostly wanting to come back for seconds. 

“We do have a big school community, and it is a diverse community, but that part of it is for everybody, so they understand that.” 

Hawes is lauded for having built close relationships with families at the school, as well as the wider Indigenous community. 

According to the educator, it’s important to invite all stakeholders to the conversation, as each will have a valuable contribution.

“We’re looking closely at what parent voice is telling us and what student voice is telling us, so that it’s very much working as a partnership and being able to see how much we’re learning from each other. 

“That standing still and learning from each other, and knowing that we’ve all got things to contribute to a learning journey,” she explains.

The school has established a partnership agreement with the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, and Aboriginal elders make frequent visits to students, sharing their unique knowledge.

And modelling lifelong learning for her students and staff, Hawes has made numerous visits to Doomadgee, a remote Aboriginal community in Queensland, to immerse herself in the culture and deepen her understanding.  

Hawes believes there’s much more we can do to learn from Indigenous people and work towards closing the gap.

“I’d like to think I’m a listener and a learner as much as I am a leader … I feel like we’ve got to listen more to Aboriginal people and learn more about what could be done better.

“I don’t feel like non-Aboriginal people have got all the answers.”