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History of Local Area and Indigenous Community

Townsville has been home to the Indigenous Tribes of the Wulgurukaba and Bindal people.

The land on which The Willows State School is built, was traditionally inhabited by the Wulgurukaba people. When the school holds events, the traditional owners of the land are recognized and whenever an elder of the Wulgurukaba people can attend, they are invited to deliver “The Welcome to Country.” This tribe was traditionally located on Palm Island and Magnetic Island, on Ross Island and east nearly to Cape Cleveland, west for about 30 kilometres beyond Townsville (Wulguru which means ‘man’.)

Two Indigenous teacher aides provide in school tuition for students to enhance their learning access and positive outcomes.

Many Indigenous students of The Willows State School have achieved success in a variety of areas.

Indigenous Staff

Welcoming new Indigenous community members to the school through personal approaches by members of the school community has had a significant and positive impact on partnerships with our Indigenous families. This personal approach has resulted in two Indigenous women working as volunteers and earning positions as teacher aides.

Indigenous teacher aides and volunteers have undertaken training and development in areas such as computer skilling, Literacy and Numaracy Support and Student Behaviour Management. Indigenous students and their families take an active role in the celebration of their culture and learning. Activities are planned collaboratively and are widely supported across the school community.

Introducing our Indigenous Teacher Aides

Mandy Berghoef, who is of Aboriginal descendant from the Batjala nation from Kgari (Fraser Island), is a teacher aide at The Willows Primary School.

The Willows Primary School has a great support program for indigenous students and their families. In her voluntary time she was a member of the ASSPA committee and volunteered to help in the school in classrooms. 

Mandy has been employed since 2001 as an Indigenous Support Aide. She works in mainstream areas, like Learning Support, Pod Work and The Willows SS OHSC (Outside Hours School Care). Being an Aboriginal person in the school is important because we need positive role models for our children and also to help any teachers who require any assistance with Indigenous curriculum ideas, resources and celebrations”.

Cathy Hughes comes from a Torres Strait Islander background who has 3 children, the youngest two having attended The Willows SS from Preschool through to Year 7.

Cathy began helping at TWSS as a volunteer parent on the ASSPA Committee and then applied for and successfully obtained, the position of Homework Co-ordinator for many years, really enjoying working with the indigenous students and staff. Cathy later applied for one of the positions of teacher aide available at the school and was happy to be successful there too. Working as a teacher aide has become a passion enriched by the fact she works with Mandy and numerous other aides to support students across TWSS as well as The Willows SS OHSC (Outside Hours School Care).

Duties include supporting students individually and in small groups with learning in the classroom; both aides make home visits to assist families; making links between school, home, children, parents; promoting links between the Learning and Engagement Centre staff, school staff, students and their families; First Aid, Support A Reader, Writer and Number, Conductive Hearing Loss and attained Certificate III – Educational Support” has kept Cathy rather busy.

Their main aim is to be available as part of TWSS support system for students, families and staff.  Both Cathy and Mandy can be approached for advice on indigenous issues, curriculum ideas and social perspectives. They meet throughout the year and encourage families to be active participants of the school community. 

They are contactable on the school number 4799 1333 or by email: 

Cathy Hughes:   

Mandy Berghoef: 

Conversations & Consultations

The Willows State School community works to make links with various support groups across the wider community.

The Learning and Engagement Centre (LEC) is one of these and we have established strong ties with staff there in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes. The name and structure has now altered and is called Indigenous School Support Unit (ISSU) however the ties are still close and staff there still offer support and advice to our school and our students participate in initiatives organised by them including the Junior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Aspiration Program (ATSIAP). 

Students of The Willows SS have attended ATSIAP since it began and each year proudly return to school with numerous awards and trophies in recognition of their efforts to compete against and with their cultural peers.  

Links with the organisation, Dare to Lead are maintained along with the What Works Program, and over the years staff have visited our school and supported us with activities to identify needs within our school community and to plan for future projects for our indigenous community. This resulted in the development of an Indigenous Community webpage to link to TWSS Website and all families were invited to contribute.

In 2011, a new partnership was established with Professor Cadet-James from James Cook University and she has already assisted our students with their preparation for ATSIAP. 

All of these partnerships support the achievement of our Closing The Gap targets.

  • Helping Your Indigenous Child Start School Well
  • Sing songs about your culture
  • Share stories of your tribe with your child and their class
  • Share artifacts with the class
  • Show some traditional dancing and dress
  • Demonstrate weaving and beading
  • Join in school cultural activities
  • Let children use dough to roll out different lengths and talk about short, long, shorter, longer
  • Trace around your child’s hand or foot in the sand and compare to brother, sister, mother, father
  • Count the number of plates at the table, spoons, forks, cups
  • Count the number of pegs used to hang up the washing
  • Collect and sort shells, rocks, seeds
  • Sing number songs like Five Little Ducks, One Two Buckle My Shoe
  • Sounds are in all the words we say – play games to help your child like “I spy something beginning with a”
  • Help your child write their name and say the letters in it
  • Help your child say the sounds they can see/hear in their name
  • Show your child you value reading and writing and show them how much fun it can be
  • Let them help write cards and letters, shopping notes
  • Leave some paper, pencils, textas around so they can have a go at writing at home
  • Use the names of colours when you ask your child to get things
  • Sort veggies into colours when shopping or cooking
  • Talk about things around home that are different shapes
  • Draw shapes in sand, in paint, and ask your child to tell you what shape it is

Indigenous Resources & Web Links  

Professional action materials for improving outcomes for Indigenous students.

Aboriginal Games:  Luka-pul pul; Gorri; Beejan Eejar; Juluhya; Tambil Tambil; Birray

Torres Strait Islander Games:  Parno; Kai; Koolchee

Black Ink Press is a community-based Indigenous writing, illustrating and publishing project based in North Queensland. This trains and mentors emerging writers and artists in order to create contemporary illustrated books especially for young Indigenous readers.​