Goodbye Dr. Collier

16 November, 2021

Before saying a very fond farewell to Head of SACS, Dr Collier, Kailan, Gawura School Captain, sat down to find out a bit more about him.

How has Gawura changed since you started at SACS 12 years ago?

When I started Gawura was up on the rooftop in that little room that’s used for after school care now and everybody was in one room and there were just two teachers.  We had no Aboriginal staff.  We had one teacher’s aide and we had 24 students.

There wasn’t much money to make it all happen.  It was pretty new and we didn’t know whether it would survive but lots of people worked hard to make sure it did. So it was what we call ‘fragile’ but in many ways very encouraging and we had some great students there who have gone on to do, in many cases, extraordinary things.


Do you remember some of the students from back then?

Absolutely because some of the little ones became big ones in my time here.  They went through from the infants part of Gawura to into Senior College and one of them of course Izak Rigney Sebastian who become the first student to go right through from kindy to year 12 as a Gawura student.

So I remember them with great fondness and we still see them when they come back to visit Gawura which is nice.


What has been your favourite Gawura moment in the time you’ve been Head of School?

There’ve been some pretty good moments.

I think a spectacular one was when that same young man I mentioned, Izak Rigney Sebastian played the didgeridoo in Westminster Abbey in London on ANZAC Day in front of Prince William, and as he was then known Prince Harry and his then fiancée Meghan Markle, and a whole lot of other very important people.  That was really bringing Indigenous culture to the centre of the United Kingdom, to the great Anglican Cathedral of the United Kingdom and featured Izak in a very special way.

What do you think is the best thing about Gawura?

I think the best thing is the opportunity it gives students to break through the cycle of particularly very poor education outcomes for Indigenous students and to do what we call ‘close the gap’, so that our local Aboriginal students are able to do as well as anyone else in their schooling and have great pathways later in life whether that be university, training or work of some kind.

Gawura aims to break those cycles and to give students opportunities which will enable them to earn an income and not live in poverty, and to have flourishing lives. That’s the great thing about Gawura.


Without donors we wouldn’t have Gawura school, what would you like to say to the donors as you leave?

Well, what I’d like to say is thank you very much for your extraordinary generosity and commitment.  Gawura could not exist without you as the donors and your compassionate heart and your vision for transforming the lives of our students is just magnificent. We are incredible grateful to you for your vision and your generosity.


What are you going to be doing next year?

Well, many things probably.  It looks like I’ll be busy but my anchor, my main thing is that I’m becoming Dean of Education at Morling College.  What that means is that I go from schooling into the tertiary academic world where I’ll be involved in teacher training, including particularly ongoing teacher training as teachers pursue higher degrees which equip them to be even better at what they do.  So l’ll have to administer the faculty, run courses and teach courses and mark university student work.


Dr Collier, have you learnt a lot about First Nations culture since you’ve been at the school?

I think so.  Yes, I think that’s a great benefit.  We’re all learners in terms of what Gawura’s taught us and Gawura’s a great teacher for those of us who are non-Indigenous.


Will you still come to the NAIDOC Week assembly?

Well that depends on whether I’m invited. I can’t determine these things anymore. Certainly I’ll remain very interested.  I’m very committed to this program.


Now that you’re leaving you can you please tell me, what you really think of Mr Ralph?

Mr Ralph is a lovely man.  He’s very kind.  He’s very good with people. He cares deeply about people. He’s very experienced, he’s wise and I think we’re very fortunate to have him here looking after Gawura right through from kindergarten to year 12.

We’d all like to thank Dr. Collier for his wonderful work – here are some of our favourite memories with him.

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