Narragunnawali Awards 2023 shortlisted finalists announced - Education Matters Magazine
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Narragunnawali Awards 2023 shortlisted finalists announced

Australian schools and early learning services with a passion for reconciliation in education have been selected as finalists for the Narragunnawali Awards 2023.

Held every two years since 2017, the Narragunnawali Awards celebrate outstanding commitments to reconciliation in education. A part of Reconciliation Australia, the Narragunnawali program supports all schools and early learning services in Australia to champion reconciliation and foster a high level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures, and contributions.

Finalists were selected by a judging panel of eminent First Nations educationalists: Sharon Davis, Geraldine Atkinson, and Joe Sambono. The panel recently met to assess the shortlisted applications and applauded the level of commitment to reconciliation in education from schools and services across the country.

The judges were impressed by the finalists’ use of local Aboriginal languages, their embedding of reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures into the curriculum and their strong relationships with local Elders and communities.

Chair of the panel Mx Sharon Davis said they appreciated the finalists’ efforts to address anti-racism in their settings and to build strong and respectful relationships with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. “Schools and early learning services are increasingly becoming places that are welcoming for First Nations students and families as education gets serious about reconciliation.”

“The impact of the initiatives demonstrated by these finalists cannot be overestimated on the broader Australian society. These schools and services present a brighter future for our students and the country. The Narragunnawali program is a catalyst for change; for a better and fairer Australia,” they furthered.

Finalists in the Schools category:

  • Winterfold Primary School – Noongar Country, Beaconsfiled, WA
  • Kwoorabup Nature School – Noongar Country, Denmark, WA
  • Kellyville Public School – Darug Country, Kellyville, NSW

Finalists in the Early Learning category:

  • Stirling District Kindergarten – Kaurna Country, Stirling, SA
  • Wyong Preschool Kindergarten – Darkinjung Country, Wyong, NSW
  • Little Beacons Learning Centre – Wurundjeri and Bunurong-Boon Wurrung Country, Pakenham, VIC

The judges also commended the following schools and centres:

  • Lismore High School, Wijabal Wyabal Country, NSW
  • Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, Wurundjeri Country, VIC
  • Hawthorndene Primary School, Kaurna Country, SA
  • Goodstart Shailer Park, Jagera and Yugambeh Country, QLD
  • Kinda-Mindi Early Learning Centre Claymore, Dharawal Country, NSW
  • MacGregor Outside School Hours Care, Turrbal and Jagera Country, QLD
Place-based education invites students to engage with the land the school occupies by gaining an understanding of the area’s Aboriginal history, language and culture; taking exploratory bush walks; and studying the local flora, flauna and wild life.


Kwoorabup Nature School is located on Denmark WA’s South Coast and is the first Independent Public School to be shortlisted ever in WA.

Principal Joanna Griffith spent many years as a Principal and teacher in remote indigenous communities in WA, consulted CSIRO on reconciliation learning and their two way science model, is a mother and a leader of one of the top three schools in the country when it comes to engaging children from a young age on the value of place-based understanding. She is calling for collaboration across the education community in Australia when it comes to such an important area of learning, currently on the political agenda and in the national spotlight.

“We are so proud to be shortlisted in the top three schools in the country for the Narragunnawali Award for reconciliation in education!” she said. “Demand to attend our school has grown unprecedentedly in the past two years and we look forward to growing with our community, giving more children the opportunity to experience education that builds reconciliation, and sharing our ongoing learnings with other schools across Australia. We firmly believe that every educational institution has a vital role in shaping a more equitable and culturally respectful society.”

Kwoorabup Nature School – is located on Pibulmun and Menang land on the South Coast of WA on the banks of the Kwoorabup Beeliar (Denmark River) and works to deliver deeply integrated reconciliation through place-based education. Over the years, the school’s commitment to reconciliation has made a profound impact on the lives of countless children, families, and the broader community.

Kwoorabup Nature School Principal Joanna Griffith and her family.

“We are humbled by the positive stories we hear from our families and are determined to continue this meaningful work for generations to come,” said Principal Griffith.

Noongar perspectives are embedded throughout the whole of the curriculum delivered in the small, independent school. The children’s learning is guided by Noongar Elders and educators and Noongar language and culture program sees children from K- year 6 take part in weekly ‘Walkabout’ days where classes engage in inquiry-based learning outside, along the river, in the bush and by the sea.

“All learning is embedded through a seasonal curriculum where children connect with and learn to care for boodja, and experience the Indigenous history and perspectives of the areas they visit. We extend our deepest gratitude to the Noongar Elders and educators who have generously shared their invaluable knowledge, wisdom, and cultural insights with us. Their support has been instrumental in guiding us on our path towards reconciliation,” said Principal Griffith.

“I’ve taught at and led schools across Australia, co-authored the CSIRO resource ‘Two-way Science’ and lived with my husband and two young boys as the Principal in a remote Indigenous community in regional WA, that holds a very special place in my heart. I feel very privileged to be leading such a special school, with a school board and teaching staff so wholeheartedly embracing reconciliation as a core value in our educational ethos.”

The judging panel will now visit each finalist to determine the winners in each category. The Awards ceremony and a reconciliation in education forum will take place on Ngunnawal Country in Canberra at the National Museum of Australia on Friday November 24th.


Reconciliation Australia, in partnership with the BHP Foundation, holds the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education Awards every two years to identify, celebrate and promote outstanding commitment to reconciliation in education environments and to share these inspirational stories across the country.

Narragunnawali (pronounced narra-gunna-wally) is a word from the language of the Ngunnawal people, Traditional Owners of the land on which Reconciliation Australia’s Canberra office is located. It means ‘alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace’, and is used with permission of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council.

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