First Nations man and recently-retired principal from Eden Marine High School Adrian Bell isn’t sure exactly why he was drawn into teaching.
“I suspect it must go back to a couple of teachers I had when I was a child,” he said.
“When I went to uni I seemed to be drawn to it without really looking anywhere else.”
But the Far South Coast community is lucky that he chose that path and his outstanding contribution to First Nations education in NSW public schools has now been recognised at the 16th annual Nanga Mai Awards where he took out the the Outstanding Leadership in Aboriginal Education Award.
“He has made our culture a first priority within the school through his leadership, high expectations and his heartfelt approach, making a real difference to our students at Eden Marine High School,” the citation for his award reads in part.
Mr Bell said he was “pretty chuffed” to receive the award and that he accepted it on behalf of the Eden community.
“You don’t do the work that you do for the awards,” he said.
He saw his role as principal, which he retired from last year, as facilitating conversations and bringing people together to allow members of the community to do what they wanted to do with the school.
“The community down in Eden just seems to be almost ideal in terms of the relationships between the community members,” he said.
“I think my role has been to allow the people with talent to go out and go about their business.”
Mr Bell has found his students enjoyed having a First Nations principal as it brought a different and interesting experience for them.
“I am particularly proud of the number of our young people who are completing their high school certificates,” he said.
A focus of his work over the last few years has been encouraging more First Nations people to move into leadership and decision-making roles in the Department of Education in order to reflect the community that the department serves.
While he has left his principal role, he still works part-time for the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate, has been working to support schools across the state in his area of expertise, wants to help support the local Aboriginal Education Reference Group as well as look after his own children.
“I dare say I’ll be kid-wrangling for the next little while,” he said.
The Nanga Mai Awards recognise students, staff and community members demonstrating excellence across all areas of education, from academic achievement, performing arts and public speaking, through to sport and leadership.
Nanga Mai is the Eora word for “to dream”.