The book chapter stems from two funded research projects, ‘Doing things right way: Dimensions of excellence in Indigenous education in Queensland secondary schools’ and ‘Indigenous education excellence in flexi schools’. This chapter focuses specifically on the role of leadership in the pursuit of Indigenous excellence in educational settings. Focusing on data from three sites from our data set, one urban, one regional, and one remote school setting, we present a comparative analysis of leadership principles and practices across these three school settings. Central to this research is an examination of perspectives, understandings, aspirations, and experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and leaders to make visible what they see as excellence in Indigenous education and to begin to conceptualise and theorise a practice and policy framework that reflects these aspirations. The questions framing the study are: How is excellence in Indigenous Education defined by Indigenous community, educators, school leaders? How do Indigenous and Non-Indigenous school leaders/teachers conceptualise a practice framework of excellence in Indigenous education? What are some examples educators and leaders identify as Excellence in Indigenous Education in their Queensland Secondary Schools?
A vast body of literature emphasises the role school leaders play in positively impacting student outcomes and overall academic achievement (Anderson, 2010; Day, Gu, & Sammons, 2016; Leithwood et al., 2020).
Some of the key leadership principles include: building relationships and partnership with their local Indigenous communities; and valuing Indigenous knowledge and cultural beliefs and practices that are integral towards promoting positive cultural identity and social and emotional wellbeing for Indigenous Australians.
One of the key findings of the research confirms that achieving Indigenous educational excellence in Australian schools will require a focus on achievement through learning growth for all students, complemented by policies which support an adaptive, innovative, and continuously improving education system. The notion of leadership appeared to be taken for granted in the Indigenous participant cohort. Another finding highlighted the over-reliance on Indigenous staff to implement what they considered good practices in Indigenous education. The participants overall (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) required clarification of what the topic was many times during the research process. It was clear in the data that exploring Indigenous education through a lens of excellence was a foreign notion; our analysis suggests that this is due to the prevailing deficit discourses that exist in policy, scholarship, and practice.