Meet the Staff – Head of Gawura, Mr John Ralph
28 January, 2020
Which Nation are you from?
Gumbainggirr Nation, on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales. My father and grandfather were from Nambucca Heads, I was born in Sydney.
What’s your role at Gawura?
I’m the Head of Gawura K-12. The actual Gawura school caters for K-6 and then we have a number of students registered in the St. Andrew’s Cathedral School. For the older students I help maintain their cultural content like the On Country tours and let them know about opportunities like internships that we offer.
What attracted you to this job?
I wanted to make a difference. I also wanted to pay back for the opportunities I’ve had.
It’s also been a great learning experience for me as well; it’s great to learn with the students from Elders and through yarning.
What does your typical day look like?
No one day is like the other. It’s a wonderful role; I do teach Stage 3 literacy and numeracy, which is good to stay connected to the curriculum and the kids. I’m involved in setting up opportunities like scholarships, internships and I also help to look after the health of the children. We now offer dental assessments, audiogram hearing tests and also visual check-ups.
When did you start here?
I started at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School back in 2000 before Gawura even existed. I taught in the Junior School, predominantly years 5 and 6. I did my time as a Stage Leader then Acting Head of the Junior School. Then when the original Head of Gawura moved to another school. I put my hand up and it’s been wonderful. I’m still learning things and it’s great just to see the kids growing and know that you’re making a difference.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
It would have to be relationships. Building nice positive relationships with the students. Here we know all our students and that relationship builds trust. It’s also about building relationships with families as well – their parents, Aunts, Uncles, Nans and Pops. And now I’m building relationships with corporate partners who are very empathetic towards Indigenous education, these are the people who are offering internships and opportunities and that’s a part of the job I’ve never thought of before and it’s morphing as we speak. But the bottom line is that relationship with the student.
What were you like at school?
I loved school. I wasn’t the smartest kid but I wasn’t the worst. I loved learning and I loved the relationships – even today four of my best friends are from school. And I know what it was like to have a really wonderful teacher who wants the best for you. I was really weak at mathematics until we had a new teacher who started when I was in Year 9 and he gave me the help I needed to turn my results from borderline failing to a credit level. School was great, I loved it.
Who was your hero growing up?
Professor Fred Hollows – he was able to give eyesight back to so many Aboriginal people before expanding internationally and making such a huge impact on the world. The idea of not making a million dollars but about the difference you can make really appealed to me.
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