Aaron Charles Ellis (@bigibila) – Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Officer

This week we’re delighted to have Aaron Charles Ellis driving the @EdutweetOz Twitter Account. Aaron is currently an Aboriginal Learning and Engagement officer in Tamworth. In his answers to our five questions, he reveals how important his connection to culture and country is, and his passion for bringing Aboriginal languages into schools.

To connect with Aaron, follow him on Twitter at @bigibila


Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I was raised on the Central Coast, off country, with my Aboriginal mother and non-Aboriginal father. I didn’t have an understanding of being an Aboriginal person and I was disconnected from my culture. In 1999 I became the first member of my family to complete Year 12 and I decided to apply for university. After commencing Bachelor of Arts at University of New England in 2000, I transferred into Bachelor of Teaching / Bachelor of Fine Arts at University of Newcastle the following year.

After completing my teaching degree I was appointed to Griffith, in the NSW Riverina region. Within the first year of my teaching career I identified that I wanted to be working with Aboriginal students in a small schools context. In 2010 I was successful in obtaining the position of Head Teacher Welfare at Wee Waa in the NSW New England region. Being welcomed into the local Aboriginal community and having the opportunity to live and work near where my mother was raised became an immense period of personal growth and understanding.

As I’ve connected to my culture and the my country I’ve realised that my ancestors have guided me on my journey in education and everything that I “fell into” was part of this journey. The most revealing moment was in November 2011 when I Iost someone important in my life and as a result I no longer had the passion for teaching Visual Arts. In a moment of reflection, a dhirridhirri (willie wagtail) sat with me. In Aboriginal culture, willie wagtails are messenger birds and relatives come back in the form of willie wagtails. Within days I had a new direction, with the support of my Elders and my Principal I was enrolled in the Masters of Indigenous Language Education at the University of Sydney.

Since completing the Masters of Indigenous Language Education I’ve implemented a successful Gamilaraay language program at Wee Waa High School. I am regarded as a leader in language revitalisation and the implementation of Aboriginal Languages in schools. I was awarded the 2014 NSW Public Schools Nanga Mai Award for Outstanding Contribution to Educational Achievement by an Aboriginal Staff Member. I’m currently relieving in the role of Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Officer in Tamworth.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I share the following statement with people I teach about the Gamilaraay language; maran gawugga, dhiiyaan mubal, dhawun dhina. It’s a simplified version of “Our mind connects us to our ancestors, our stomach connects us to our family and our feet connect us to the earth”. I am motivated by my ancestors, my family and by my connection to the earth.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

As Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Officer I’m engaging with school leaders across a range of different education contexts. Transitioning from the classroom and the context of my own school I see the biggest challenge for school leaders as the implementation of different education policies, such as Local School Local Decisions and Every Student Every School. The biggest reward is always the ability to make positive changes for our students.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Improve the capacity of schools to implement Aboriginal Languages programs. I believe this is possible by developing the skills and providing support for people from schools and communities. From my experience in welfare, I believe the role of school counsellors in undervalued in public education. I would also review the measures for retention and distribution of school counsellors.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz and twitter are great for connecting with like-minded individuals. I connected with people that I consider friends, despite being yet to meet them in person. EduTweetOz allows us the share our ideas and experiences and this week I’m looking forward to sharing my perspective and engaging in discussions with other educators.


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