Four schools finalists for WA Education Awards

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
Northampton DHS Principal Melanie Sutherland with students on national principal's day
Camera IconNorthampton DHS Principal Melanie Sutherland with students on national principal's day Credit: Picture: Facebook/Northampton DHS

Stories of community and culture have seen staff from four Mid West schools named finalists for the WA Education Awards.

Allendale Primary’s Emma Smith (WA Premier’s Primary Teacher of the Year), Beachlands Primary (WA Premier’s Excellence in Aboriginal Education), Northampton District High School’s Melanie Sutherland (WA Primary Principal of the Year), and Waggrakine Primary’s Fiona Turner (WA Education Assistant of the Year) and Mandi Ostaszewskyj (WA Primary Deputy Principal of the Year) all got a nod.

Beachlands Primary School have been running a program with their kindergarten to Year 6 students for the past few years, teaching the Wajarri language and local indigenous culture.

Students regularly go on excursions to Aboriginal sites for what they call on-country learning. They are taught about food and water sources, and participate in rituals such as throwing sand into a river to pay respect to the spirits.

“We’ve been given a great opportunity to revive the language, and share it with the whole school,” Wajarri teacher Natasha Ryan said.

Northampton DHS principal Melanie Sutherland is a finalist for primary principal of the year. The school teaches from kindy to Year 10, meaning most of Ms Sutherland’s students are primary aged.

Northampton was one of the towns hit hardest by cyclone Seroja. The school largely escaped damage, allowing it to become a “community hub”, according to Ms Sutherland.

“It was really traumatic for our families and staff … a lot of people were without power for eight, sometimes 12 weeks,” she said.

Families were invited to use the school’s facilities in the wake of the storm. The home economics class was opened up so volunteers could prepare food. Hot showers were made available, as was the school’s internet connection, allowing locals to contact insurance companies.

“The grace people acted with was really inspiring,” Ms Sutherland said.

“That culture is so firmly embedded in Northampton.”

Winners will share in a prize pool of $402,500, but a date for the award presentation has not yet been announced, only that it will be a breakfast held in Term 4 at Optus Stadium.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails