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Fighting spirit

Name: Anne Clarke

For someone who has been doing the same job for the past 21 years, Anne Clarke is refreshingly full of zeal.

But it could have something to do with where she works, as Northland Secondary College is certainly not your average school.

Located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Northland SC offers its students a diverse range of subjects and programs, from music, dance and drama to outdoor education, Statewide student forums and undergraduate university courses.

The school has a large contingent of Koori students, and the curriculum includes Aboriginal knowledge, history and culture.

“We’ve got a great relationship with the Koori community,” says Anne. “I always try to link Indigenous issues, performance and story-telling with the subjects I teach. The kids respond to it so well.”

Anne teaches social studies and health, and has always encouraged her students to express themselves about such important issues as Jabiluka and reconciliation.

“Recently we ran a special reconciliation forum for our Year 10 students, and Reconciliation Victoria asked us to run a youth forum for the entire metropolitan area,” says Anne proudly. “We had 200 students come along, and our students were running the proceedings. You could really see some emerging leaders. It was quite inspiring!”

Last year, Anne was awarded the Victorian Association of Social Studies Teachers Peter Clarke Award for Teaching Reconciliation for her work.

“That really knocked me out because it came from the community – you had to be nominated by the community,” says Anne.

The community certainly cares for the school. When the Victorian Government closed down the school in 1992, teachers and community leaders ran a rebel school for two-and-a-half years in a run-down cricket shed while they fought the closure in the Equal Opportunities Commission.

“We won the case,” says Anne simply. “And since then we have continued to see impressive results from our students.”

The school’s success was also recognised by the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody, which singled out the school as an example of what can be achieved at a mainstream school when the needs of Koori students are accommodated.

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