From learning to leadership
Just three years after graduating from her ACU education degree, Erin Eade has become the first female principal, and the first Aboriginal principal, of Mogo Public School.
Located in a small heritage village on the NSW south coast, Mogo Public School is respectively close-knit – with only 37 students, the majority of whom identify as Aboriginal, in attendance. A proud Wangaibon woman herself, Erin is aware of the effect her new appointment will have on the small community.
“Wow, it’s an accomplishment isn’t it? I wasn’t even aware I would be the first female and first Aboriginal principal until recently. It wasn’t something I used as motivation when I set my goal of becoming principal of Mogo, but it is a unique opportunity that I take seriously,” Erin said.
“Being the first female principal means that I am in the perfect position to be a role model to female students, remind the community that females can achieve great things, and that there are many opportunities for women in leadership roles.
“Being the first Aboriginal principal is something that I am also proud of. It is very humbling. If someone had said to me four years ago that I would be in the position I am in now, I would not have believed them.”
Erin Eade with one of her students
Engaging the community
Erin, who has worked at the school for three years, is backed by her supportive community and colleagues who have eagerly been awaiting her appointment.
“I am glad that I surrounded myself with people who encouraged me. In the lead up, people would often ask me if I was applying for the job. It was positive reinforcement like this that guided me through the process,” Erin said.
“Previous principal Jason Barby encouraged my skill set, and challenged, mentored and supported my developing leadership skills. He gave me the courage and confidence to take on leadership roles in the school and in my second year, I was given the opportunity to relieve as principal on a number of occasions.
“As a teaching principal, it is a balance of classroom teaching (which is a priority) and leading and managing a school. We are a great and passionate team of staff at Mogo PS, who share the same vision and values, and we are dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students through quality partnerships with parents and community.”
Taking the long way round
Erin left school in Year 10 so the path to principal wasn’t a straight line, especially when you factor in marriage and motherhood. She was working at the Department of Education in Griffith as an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer when a colleague encouraged her to try the Away from Base Program at ACU. Away from Base allows students to live and work in their local community while studying online and attending residential study blocks.
“I was interested in learning about the curriculum content being taught in schools, and I knew ACU’s program would allow this. Plus it suited my lifestyle. The resources available to participants made it easier to complete the degree, and the Aboriginal perspective appealed to me.
“In the beginning, I found it a bit daunting travelling into the big smoke on my own, and getting back into the role as a student was surreal, but having the right group of supportive friends, family and staff at ACU made it enjoyable.
“Although at times it was challenging, I soon learned that I could manage the balance of work, university and family. It was whilst studying at ACU I realised my potential, and that I could combine my passion for education and my passion for my culture.”
Yalbalinga Indigenous Higher Education Unit Coordinator Danielle Dent played a big role in Erin’s journey and was a rock during her time at ACU. She is not surprised at Erin’s success and sees the positive impact it has on other students.
“Erin started her degree, then took a break from studies, then returned to complete it. Having the passion and drive to complete a degree, especially away from home, is something special,” Danielle said.
“I am not surprised at her success. Erin was a high achieving student throughout her time at ACU. She was determined and committed to complete her studies no matter what obstacles came her way. I am so proud of her.
“I think Erin’s achievements are huge for other students currently studying, not only in this degree, but all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Erin will be an amazing leader in her community and a great role model for Aboriginal people that are thinking about going to university for the first time.
“Students have been on campus and heard Erin’s story and have been discussing her achievement. One student said that’s what I want to aim for, if Erin can do it so can I.”
Looking to the future
It’s clear that Erin’s passion for education and empowerment has already allowed her to make an impact. The mother of three is now looking ahead to the positives she can generate in the future.
“My journey in getting to this point has been longer than expected but because of that I have had many experiences that have made me more resilient, more competitive and more eager to succeed,” she said.
“Each morning I literally jump out of bed, ready and excited about what the day will bring. As an Aboriginal person I hope my experience, enthusiasm and positive nature can demonstrate to my students that they too can dream big, and through hard work and determination, they can succeed.
“I know I can make changes with the work that I do. Principals and teachers play an important role in making a positive difference every day. The community know that I have each and every student’s best interest at heart and I will continue to challenge myself to create opportunities that are for their benefit, and continue to raise the bar.
“Education creates empowerment, empowerment creates opportunity.”
Erin completed her education degree at ACU. She was part of the Away from Base Program which allows students to live and work in their local community while studying online and attending four residential study blocks a year.
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