Victoria government logo

Secretary's Marrung Award winners

The awards recognise good practice in Aboriginal education and inclusion.

Nomination are now open and close on 6 April 2023 for the 2023 Secretary’s Marrung Awards.

2023 Secretary’s Marrung Awards – Guidelines and nomination formExternal Link

You can nominate yourself, a colleague or a team. To submit a nomination, email:

About the awards

The Department of Education and Training is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Secretary’s Marrung Awards, held on 29 June 2022.

The Secretary’s Marrung Awards celebrate the unique knowledge and skills that Aboriginal staff and allies bring to the department, to create better educational outcomes for Aboriginal students. This may be in roles that focus on communications, policy, program delivery, student support, teaching, allied health, or leadership.


Positive Climate for Learning

This category has two winners and celebrates those who have created a positive climate for learning and development and where their services have demonstrated the highest levels of respect and inclusion. The result is Koorie children and learners of all ages feeling a greater sense of strength in their identity and culturally safe.

Winner: Greater Shepparton Secondary College – Koorie Cultural Inclusions

With the Goulburn Valley Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (LAECG), Greater Shepparton Secondary College has consistently adopted cultural considerations recommended through deep engagement and meaningful collaboration with the Koorie Community. This work lays the foundation for creating an inclusive environment that supports Marrung’s ongoing implementation.

Winner: Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in the Curriculum Workshops, Hume Moreland Area (HMA)

Koorie Engagement Support Officers (KESO), Steven Van Nus, Jon Belling and James Morgan; Student Achievement Manager, Frances Lyngcoln and Education Improvement Leaders, Jennifer Ames and Rachael Sear developed and led ‘Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in the Curriculum Workshops’ project. Opt-in online workshops were held for Principals, Assistant Principals, and teachers from HMA and across the North West Victoria Region. To date, 191 school staff have participated in the online workshops.

Community Engagement

This category has two winners and celebrates efforts made to build community engagement in learning and development. It recognises services that have worked in partnership and collaboration with Koorie people to find innovative ways to improve outcomes in local communities.

Winner: David Rogers, Principal, Forest Hill College

David Rogers, Principal, Forest Hill College (FHC) ensured Aboriginal voices have driven the promotion of culture, heritage, and education in the wider Forest Hill College community. This included co-design of a mural of Bunjil with a Wurundjeri artist and revamping the library garden to create a culturally safe and inclusive space.

David led the development of an inclusive and connected culture at FHC. Aboriginal members of the college collaborated with members of the college community and the area KESO to develop a plan to make FHC a leader in inclusion.

Cultural event recognition has been implemented, including smoking ceremonies and a focus on Aboriginal history and culture in the curriculum. An Acknowledgement of Country co-created with students and the KESO is now used at all meetings and events, all national flags are now flying and there is an acknowledgement plaque in the foyer.

Winner: Goulburn Koorie Language Project

KESO Sherylee Welsh, Navigator Coordinator David Bennett and Acting Koorie Education Coordinator Victor Lovett instigated the project to improve student outcomes by learning about the rich, thriving culture and knowledge of the local First Nations Peoples, the Taungurung People.

This began with years 7-to-10 Koorie students at Seymour College, and soon expanded to include Grades 5 to Year 10. It supports Koorie young people to be strong in their identity and be involved in program decisions which impact them.

The program fostered relationships with students, schools, and the community, and was initiated through engagement and consultation with schools, students, families and Taungurung, aligned with the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (now FISO 2.0) and applied with a cultural lens. The model is one which could be made available and replicated by other schools.

Professional Leadership

This category has two winners and celebrates the achievements of those who have built a culture of professional leadership where success for Koorie Victorians is their core business.

Winner: Sandra Nolan, Koorie Education Manager South-Western Victoria Region (SWVR)

Sandra Nolan, has supported schools to ensure the success of Koorie Victorians through tireless advocacy, unwavering support, and championing colleagues.

Sandra has been a generous source of knowledge for all staff and has never failed to speak out and give voice to the Koorie experience.

She has displayed leadership for the regional implementation of policies and actions, including the Marrung Education Plan, Wirnalung Ganai, and the Self Determination in Education rollout.

She represents the SWVR at a state-wide level to maintain a consistent approach while recognising and celebrating the unique differences in the regions.

Sandra builds the capacity of non-Aboriginal staff through coaching and advice which has resulted in exemplary learning and culturally safe environments. For example, Phoenix College in Ballarat has introduced a range of successful initiatives to deliver on Marrung and become a leading school in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, thanks to Sandra’s support and guidance.

She has demonstrated high aspirations and values of accountability for improving the learning and development outcomes for Koorie people.

Winner: Gina Milgate, Acting Manager and Senior Project Officer, Quality Teaching Branch, Performance Division

Gina Milgate, led colleagues across the Performance Division to build their confidence, courage, knowledge and understanding to ensure cultural safety and inclusion are at the forefront. She was instrumental in challenging her colleagues to learn, unlearn and relearn, to ensure the success of Koorie learners, foster truth telling, and advance self-determination.

In her role as Acting Manager and Senior Project Officer in the Performance Division, Gina was approached by many different units, teams, and individual colleagues to provide an Aboriginal perspective and voice to work across projects. Gina is an effective leader who empowered colleagues to embrace ways of working informed by Aboriginal knowledge.

Gina provided opportunities for staff to practise and embed Aboriginal ways of working authentically. She showed courage to challenge and teach colleagues about culturally unsafe practices. Gina’s openness empowers others, and as a result, the Performance Division’s Marrung Working Group more effectively leads work to achieving the aspirations of Marrung and Wirnalung Ganai.

Excellence in Teaching Learning and Development

This category celebrates those people and/or institutions who have achieved excellence in teaching, learning and development so that Koorie learners can thrive at all stages.

Winner: Thornbury Primary School

Thornbury Primary School has implemented an action plan to improve the engagement and learning outcomes of Koorie students. Along with a comprehensive professional development program, the school has established productive relationships with the local organisations, including the Council, other schools in the network, and Monash University.

The action plan has inspired a shift toward a more culturally responsive teaching approach, creating a socially and intellectually safe space for the school’s “Deadly Learners”. A key indicator of the efficacy of the action plan is the increased school attendance for Koorie students to 80%, celebrated recently. Teachers reported less time out of class and more active participation in tasks. More families now attend Student Support Groups, and a notable success from Term 1 to Term 4 student work samples. NAPLAN data shows improvement in reading and writing growth from Year 3 to Year 5 in the top two bands.

The school has fostered relationships with the Wurundjeri Council and Yappera Kindergarten, deepened its understanding of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) Protocols and used the knowledge and skills of the Language and Culture Teacher Aunty Terri and teacher consultant Stephanie lsbester.

Aboriginal educators, organisations and mentors have formed learning networks to build a team around each learner, including speech pathologists and occupational therapists who visit the school weekly. Two learning tutors and mentors support engagement and learning across the school, and the KESO attends all family meetings and supports student learning. Through the partnership with Monash University, undergraduate teachers come to Thornbury Primary School o learn about the inclusion of Aboriginal voice, perspectives, truth-telling, and advocacy, which they can take into the profession.

Encouragement award

This award is to encourage continued excellence and recognises a whole-of-school effort and the impact of improved student outcomes.

Winner: Individual Education Plans, Badger Creek Primary School

Badger Creek Primary School has developed processes around Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for Koorie students, which have earned it a reputation as a culturally safe school, doubled enrolment of First Nation Students and increased engagement of First Nation parents in children’s learning.

To develop effective IEPs for Koorie students, the school created opportunities for Marrung Champion Rohan Anderson to connect with teacher Stephanie Connell who had 4 Koorie students in her classroom to work on a project with Professional Learning Community manager Kirrily George. The team worked to see what effect the IEP would have on student engagement in the classroom. The school’s Education Improvement Leader provided Professional Learning on how to write SMART goals for IEPs.

Koorie students’ IEPs are updated at least every semester. Student Support Groups are timetabled in consultation with the school’s KESO Angela Swindle, to ensure IEPs are developed and followed. Families have an advocate in attendance in these meetings with the KESO present to support cultural understanding with all the families now involved in this process.

IEPs were reviewed in 2021-22 as the school moves toward a new Education Management System. IEPs incorporated an interview for students to have with their teachers to support understanding of specific educational needs of students.

Aboriginal Community Leadership

This category recognises efforts made to foster improved knowledge, understanding and appreciation for Aboriginal histories, people, and cultures.

Winner: Marjorie Pickford, Koorie Engagement Support Officer, Central Highlands, SWR

Marjorie Pickford has played a key role supporting Sebastopol Primary School (SPS) to include Indigenous Education in its learning programs by mentoring the Indigenous Culture Teacher and Principal to use the Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016 – 2026.

Marjorie is a long-standing community member of the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BADAC) and has worked in various Koorie education roles since the late 90s. Marjorie has brought cultural expertise, reciprocal respect, and cohesion to the SPS community in her professional development roles and her advocacy at educational workshops, Student Support Groups and Professional Practice Teams.

In challenging complex educational situations, Marjorie can respectfully draw on nuanced family context to increase student engagement, learning progress and wellbeing. She ensures Individual Educational Plans for students are meaningful and individualised by addressing students’ Aboriginal identity as individuals, community members, and learners.

Visit Marrung Strategy for more information.

Reviewed 29 March 2023


Was this page helpful?