Our Story

Our Story

Gawura was established in 2007 by St Andrew’s Cathedral School in response to systemic underachievement and the clear disparity in educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Head of School at the time, Phillip Heath, along with Pastor Ray Minniecon and Sharon Minniecon, and the original taskforce saw the need to close the gap, and in doing so, brought the Gawura vision to life.

Gawura stands for our school’s commitment to reversing the overwhelming educational disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which exists across the whole country. As a day school in Sydney’s CBD, St Andrew’s Cathedral School demonstrates its commitment to this challenge by offering a unique, culturally enriched educational journey to Indigenous students who live in the CBD’s neighbouring suburbs.

The aim of the program is for our Gawura students to achieve educational outcomes equal to (or better than) their non-Indigenous peers. Our mission is to break the entrenched cycle of disadvantage experienced by Indigenous children by providing them with the best opportunity for educational success, a choice of direction for the future and a foundation upon which they can build for the rest of their lives.

Our Values

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Mission Statement

Gawura’s mission is to provide a quality Kindergarten to Year 6 education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in a caring, Christian environment. The emphasis is on high standards of literacy, numeracy and social skills that are foundations for life.

All graduates of Gawura are offered scholarships to St Andrew’s Cathedral School for secondary education. St Andrew’s vision is to inspire students to be passionate, creative learners who engage with the message of Christ and fully develop their gifts and abilities in order to serve in the world.

About Gawura

Gawura is a unique, coeducational Kindergarten to Year 6 day school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who live at home with their families. Engagement of the Gawura families, parents and carers is critical to the success of the program. With up to 28 students, Gawura is a highly-acclaimed, highly-regarded ‘lighthouse’ model for Indigenous education, offering students a supportive, nurturing space where they feel secure and learn at their own skill level, participating in individual numeracy and literacy programs. They achieve academic milestones daily and grow in their abilities in academic subjects, sport and the arts.

The school program is funded primarily by individual and family donors, corporates and foundations.

Head of Gawura

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Mr John Ralph

Gawura has a simple formula; the delivery of an explicit data driven curriculum, practice, high expectations and attendance being paramount.

The classroom programs are systemic and intensive, with an emphasis on literacy and numeracy, delivered in a culturally supportive and enriching environment. The Gawura program continues to promote identity and cultural understanding.

Our students are proud of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. Wiradjuri classes are always a highlight of the week and the students take great pride in every cultural performance. Eminent educationalist, Dr Chris Sarra, once commented that “Education strengthens Aboriginality”.

As a bottom up educational model, enormous thanks goes to our incredibly committed parent body for their ongoing support and direction. An overall 93 per cent attendance cannot be underestimated and continues to demonstrate the value placed on school and school achievement.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our donors for supporting the Gawura Scholarship Fund and enabling our students to complete this amazing educational journey.

Mr John Ralph
Head of Gawura

Gawura has three full-time staff, one part-time teacher’s aide and one part-time Aboriginal Education aide working with 22 students. This ratio allows us to specifically address the individual academic and wellbeing needs of the students.

Our Ambassadors

Pastor Ray Minniecon

Currently, Pastor Ray is the Director of Bunji Consultancies, a production company that supports the development of Aboriginal film and documentaries and leadership and business initiatives with various public and corporate clients. Ray has worked with the Anglican Diocese of...

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Pastor Ray Minniecon

Currently, Pastor Ray is the Director of Bunji Consultancies, a production company that supports the development of Aboriginal film and documentaries and leadership and business initiatives with various public and corporate clients. Ray has worked with the Anglican Diocese of Sydney as Pastor and Director of Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries. He is the inaugural Chairperson of the Sydney Anglican Indigenous Peoples Committee and a Council member of St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

“To me personally, Gawura represents one of the most positive futures for our Aboriginal community in Sydney. These children are eager to learn, excelling in academic abilities, showing us that they want to achieve some big goals in their lives. They are my pride and joy.”

Pastor Ray is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of South-East Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people with connections to the people of Ambrym Island.

Professor Larissa Behrendt

Prof. Larissa Behrendt is the Professor of Indigenous Research and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is a regular columnist for The Guardian. She also runs a radio program, Speaking...

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Professor Larissa Behrendt

Prof. Larissa Behrendt is the Professor of Indigenous Research and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is a regular columnist for The Guardian. She also runs a radio program, Speaking Out, each Sunday on ABC local radio.

She has published numerous textbooks on Indigenous legal issues. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law.

She was awarded the 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year award and 2011 NSW Australian of the Year.

“I became involved with Gawura because I was interested in a model of education that focused on academic excellence within elite educational institutions but did not involve removing Indigenous children from their communities. The Gawura model has not only afforded Indigenous children the opportunity for a high quality education, it has fostered a relationship with the local Indigenous community through the families of those children.”

Professor Larissa Behrendt is a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman.

Ms Deborah Cheetham, OA

Deborah is one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous sopranos and founded Short Black Opera Company. She composed Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, which premiered in October 2010 and played at the Sydney Opera House in 2016, featuring three of our past and present Gawura...

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Ms Deborah Cheetham, OA

Deborah is one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous sopranos and founded Short Black Opera Company. She composed Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, which premiered in October 2010 and played at the Sydney Opera House in 2016, featuring three of our past and present Gawura students. Deborah has created many opportunities for Indigenous singers and musicians, actors, writers and technicians. She has opened doors for many Indigenous artists and is an inspiration for all Australians.

“Look at all this achievement. It’s not unusual for Aboriginal people to achieve and to be successful – and that’s the message that I want to put out there… let’s promote it so that the next generation of kids are seeing the balance.”

Cheetham is a member of the Stolen Generations; she was taken from her mother when she was three weeks old.

Mr Peter Warne

Peter Warne is an active member of the school community, being a former parent of the school and Chairman of the St Andrew’s Cathedral School Foundation. He is currently the chairman of Macquarie Group and is also chairman of ALE...

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Mr Peter Warne

Peter Warne is an active member of the school community, being a former parent of the school and Chairman of the St Andrew’s Cathedral School Foundation. He is currently the chairman of Macquarie Group and is also chairman of ALE Property Group and OzForex Group and has one more term as an ASX director. He is a director of NSW Treasury Corp, a patron of the Macquarie University Foundation, and is on the Australian Office of Financial Management’s advisory board.

Our School

Learning Environment and Curriculum

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