Sambell Oration 2018 – Strong and Smart: Investing in Indigenous Children

11 April 2018

Leading educator Chris Sarra delivered this year’s Sambell Oration.

Education and skills open the door to a good life in Australia. But a sizeable gap persists in school participation and attainment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. What strategies will spread opportunity and improve outcomes?

In a compelling address, Chris Sarra argues low expectations and deficit thinking have for too long framed Indigenous education. Drawing on personal and professional experience, he outlines a philosophy to deliver a stronger, smarter future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. And his approach might help unlock the potential of other Australian children.

Read Chris Sarra's paper Strong and smart: investing in Indigenous children (PDF, 116 KB)

Chris Sarra

Chris Sarra is a professor of education at the University of Canberra. He became the first Aboriginal principal at Cherbourg State School, Queensland, in the late 1990s, making significant changes to how Indigenous students experienced education.

Growing up in Bundaberg, the youngest of 10 children, Professor Sarra faced similar challenges to his students. The strengths-based approach he developed at Cherbourg led to the formation of the Stronger Smarter Institute, which he chairs.

The institute works with schools and community leaders around Australia. Professor Sarra also co-chairs the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.

His qualifications include a PhD in psychology from Murdoch University. His thesis, ‘Strong and smart – towards a pedagogy for emancipation: education for first peoples’, was developed into a book and published in 2011.

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