This award recognises excellence, innovation and leadership in contribution to education by an alumni who graduated from MGSE in the previous eight years.
Sophie has been working in the remote community of Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land since graduating from MGSE. Through her work at Nhulunbuy High School and more recently Laynhapuy Homeland school, she has developed a keen understanding about teaching young people and in particular of Yolngu people and their relationship to education. Sophie’s long-standing advocacy and teaching within the Homelands school is built on a base of excellence and innovation in teaching and respectful, immersive relationships with Yolngu school communities.
Sophie’s educational vision has always been borne out of inclusive practices and listening and learning from others. Sophie has built deep and effective relationships with the Yolngu communities and her colleagues working in the Homelands. Sophie’s commitment to Yolngu education is evident in her passion for teaching and in particular in her focus on supporting effective pathways for Yolngu students, particularly those that allow Yolngu young people to remain in their community for education. She is a highly valued staff member at the school and is very generous with her time in being a mentor teacher to MGSE students on placement in the region. Living and teaching in a remote setting can be challenging, although Sophie expresses a deep sense of privilege to work closely with the community and rejects the often-heard comment that remote teachers make significant sacrifices.
In 2019, Sophie was invited by Laynhapuy Homeland schools to lead the re-launch of their secondary education program, in light of her skills and experience in this area. This involved developing the relevant curriculum, working with outside agencies, and importantly, listening and responding to Yolngu leaders. Sophie is deeply committed to this project and is clearly making a significant contribution to education in the region. Sophie is committed to Country and both-ways learning as important methods for making education relevant to Yolngu young people and fostering a pathway through school that keeps young people engaged. She gives regular and effective feedback to students while at the same time supporting teacher training and encouragement to Yolngu educators.
Sophie comes from a rural background herself, and attending the University of Melbourne deepened her awareness of the disadvantages and challenges that many rural people face in studying away from home. It is this understanding that Sophie often draws on in her thinking around equity and access to education or employment pathways. Sophie has undertaken extensive reading and research on the rights of Indigenous children to learn in their own language and culture and, most importantly, is successful in putting this into action.