The best way to get to learn about your local community and how it works is to spend time with its members, in ways as straightforward as greeting and stopping for a chat inside and outside the school. As well, many schools set up informal events — BBQs, sporting, community and school celebrations — where school staff and family members can get to know each other better.
Within the school, creating respectful spaces for Indigenous community members to tell their stories, share their experiences and provide advice and guidance demonstrates that the school is genuine about building understanding, trust and respect.
There are many reasons for parents and caregivers to come to school, some of which are spelt out below; but first impressions are crucial. The front office is the public face of a school. The way it looks is important. Many schools with Indigenous students enrolled include displays of Indigenous art and artefacts as indications of their connections to local Indigenous cultures and heritage. But the dominant impression will be based on the sort of welcome families receive.
While face-to-face contact and doing things together is the best way to establish relationships, time pressures may mean that you have to find additional ways of communicating with Indigenous families and community members. If your school has an Indigenous aide or worker they may well have ideas about effective forms of communication.
One of the structured ways schools keep parents and community members in touch is by sending out a regular newsletter. If this is your main form of communication, pay special attention to the accessibility of the language in which it is written.
Some schools have a room or area especially for Indigenous parents and community members where they can have a cup of tea of coffee, meet with teachers, hold meetings or just get together with other people who have kids at school. Other schools provide families with calendars with the key dates marked on them.
Parent involvement often happens more readily in primary than in secondary schools. But there are things you can encourage with parents in any school, such as
You may have parents, caregivers or other members of the community who can help staff in developing their cultural awareness, perhaps by participating in formal programs, or just by telling school staff about matters they feel staff should be aware of and that would benefit their work.