Louise Wilkinson

Position Principal
Organisation Heatley State Primary School
Location QLD

Louise began her professional educational career in QLD as secondary art teacher in 1983. She worked for 22 years in several government secondary schools along coastal Queensland, with ten years as a Deputy Principal in one of the largest schools in QLD at the time. In 2005, she moved into the primary sector as principal - in the same Townsville school that she works in today.

Louise was a principal mentor for Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) during their Principals as Literacy Leaders with Indigenous Communities (PALLIC) project in 2011-2012 and a school reviewer for the Department of Education’s School Improvement Unit in 2016 and has been a peer reviewer since 2017. She is co-chair of the QLD Association of State School Principal’s (QASSP) Indigenous Education Sub-Committee and secretary of her local QASSP branch, positions she has held since 2007. In 2006 Louise completed her Masters of Indigenous Studies by thesis at James Cook University and in December 2019, completed her PhD at the same university. Louise was awarded cum laude for both theses.

Louise has a strong interest in Indigenous education and both her Masters and PhD studies focussed on educational leadership in this field. Her recent dissertation focused on the Indigenous Education Worker/Community Education Counsellor (IEW/CEC) and principal professional relationship in a large educational region in North Queensland. She researched what they did in their work together in school improvement, particularly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Results of this study indicate while similar conditions were experienced by most schools across the region, the IEW/CEC and principal relationship was variable and fragmented for many and the role of IEW/CEC was underestimated and underutilised. The case study pairs presented differently and of the six relational dynamics evident between every pair, the most highly enacted was that of trusting interpersonal communication. Their strong relationships were created through certain personal predispositions and deliberate practices, but these occurred more by chance and less by systemic design. Strong relationships between IEW/CEC and principals showed they could mitigate detrimental contextual features like racism, perceived or actual uncertainty of funding and insufficiency of system support, while they ameliorated school members’ capacity so leader agency, student success, parent engagement and staff cultural competency growth could occur. Revealed was that the IEW/CEC and principal relationship was not only microcosmic to school-community partnerships, but was also that of the greater project of national reconciliation.

With implications calling for a change of policy and practice within the wider school system in the state of Queensland, this study concludes that if educational outcomes for Indigenous students and engagement their families are to be maximised, professional relationships between IEWs/CECs and their principals need to exist and then expand beyond the pair through deliberate and greater systemic support. The position of IEW/CEC needs to be guaranteed in schools, training for Indigenist perspectives must be promulgated and systemic provision of resources for IEWs/CECs and principals in schools to grow their professional relationship must occur. A strong IEW/CEC and principal relationship can lead to less a transactional and different type of leader collaboration, one that creates a ‘vorticity’ of influence that enrols others into taking on the responsibility of supporting every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student succeed, something that is more than the power of two.

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