In a remote Indigenous school you will be teaching students whose everyday life may differ greatly from your own. You will need to be flexible in how you talk to, and interact with, your students.
A typical remote school is smaller than an urban school which enables you to develop deeper relationships with colleagues, students and families. This experience may also provide you with the opportunity to learn another language and gain further knowledge of the culture and customs of the community in which you live.
It is likely that you will be a member of a smaller staff group so you may be involved in whole school planning and decision making, participate in school based leadership roles, share personal interests and talents in specialist programs as well as teach a variety of subject areas.
Keep in mind that in a remote Indigenous community there may be different meanings behind non-verbal communication. Body language can be quite different to what you may be accustomed and there may be some gestures that have a significantly different meaning from what you currently understand. As a teacher living in an Indigenous community, you may also have to adjust your own perceptions of the right behaviour in different situations.
Experience is knowledge when working in a remote Indigenous community, so look to the local assistant teachers who are skilled and knowledgeable for help on ways to manage classrooms.
While challenging at times, teaching students with different cultural backgrounds will give you an insight into different cultures and more effective teaching tools.
Living and working in a remote Indigenous community is all about relationships and communication. It is vital to be open, flexible and creative. Every day is different and the environment you work in will require you to be adaptable and open to change. As a teacher in these communities you have the opportunity to impact on the lives of students in an obvious and long-lasting way. Your achievement can ultimately make a really positive contribution in the community.
Every community is different. It is important to find out some of the history of the community, its members, and information on the school.
Word of mouth is a very powerful means of communication, so if you establish yourself as someone who is trustworthy, respectful and listens, the community will be open to working with you.
Teaching in a remote community provides an opportunity to take an active role and participate in community events, but you should avoid becoming directly involved in community politics and commentary.
Helping out or joining in sport, craft or local events in the community can be a good way to get to know and meet community members, parents and students in an informal setting.
A number of remote Indigenous communities are "dry" communities and alcohol is neither allowed to be brought into nor consumed within the community. Others have very restrictive rules around the consumption of alcohol within the community. As alcohol regulations change within each community, local police stations provide residents, visitors and transient workers with current information around alcohol consumption in their locality. School principals will also be able to provide you with more information.
In Indigenous communities, death is dealt with in different ways and is a very sensitive matter. Local community members can inform you of these times. Ask if you are not sure.
As a visitor you are not expected to know everything and a quick apology is accepted. If you are in this situation, try not to pry too much and later ask an Indigenous colleague for advice or information if you need to know more.
As a teacher living in a remote Indigenous community, you may be living on Indigenous traditional land. This may include waterways, individual fishing and camping spots and other areas around the community.
Government employees do not require an access permit however your visitors may still require a permit from the regional land council. It is best to check the rules and always ask permission for any kind of access to traditional lands unless they are well-known public gathering places such as river access points, landings, boat ramps and community facilities.
Permission can be as simple as asking the appropriate local community leader about access to the area. Access is rarely denied however some areas may be closed from time to time due to a death in the family or cultural activities. If you are unsure, always ask a local community member.
Appropriate clothing to wear in a very remote Indigenous community is different from other areas of rural or urban Australia. As a teacher you are a role model in the community and while the dress regulations of the school may be more relaxed, for your comfort and to observe cultural sensitivities, it is recommended that you wear:
- loose fitting dresses with sleeves
- loose fitting shirts/tops or short sleeves
- loose fitting trousers or knee length skirts
- natural, light cotton or natural fibre fabrics
- sturdy, wide brimmed hat or cap.
To avoid causing offense, please avoid:
- exposing your shoulders and thighs
- low cut or see-through/transparent clothing
- singlets with thin straps
- short skirts or shorts above the knee.
If you are swimming, women should wear swimsuits with T-shirts or board shorts over the top and board shorts for men. Public sunbathing is not generally advised.