Congratulations! 2016 Australian Rural Education Awards (AREA) & ISFIRE Award Recipients

Since 1994 SPERA has awarded, the Australian Rural Education Awards to an institution, organisation or industry, in recognition of excellence to Australia’s Rural Education sector . It was the first national award recognising both excellence in rural education and promoting creative ways of meeting the educational needs of rural families and their communities.
At the recent 32nd Annual SPERA Conference, held in MacKay, five awards were presented to projects which clearly demonstrated an initiative that expands education opportunities for rural Australian communities.

It is with great pleasure that SPERA awarded these projects in the following categories:

Category 1 Existing projects that demonstrate a proven link between a rural, regional and/or remote school or learning context and the local community, and benefiting a defined group.

Winner: Whole of Community Engagement Initiative, Charles Darwin University in partnership with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and the Northern Territory Department of Education. It has involved building the aspiration, expectation and capacity of six very remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory to participate in further education. A place-based approach adopted through the WCE initiative has emerged as an innovative model to guide the ways in which Australian universities can engage with remote Indigenous communities about further education pathways.

Category 2 Future projects that support new and creative thinking in professional practice aimed at improving student outcomes in a rural, regional and/or remote setting.

Winner: ASPIRE, University of New South Wales. ASPIRE’s regional program currently targets 30 primary, central and secondary schools in areas of significant disadvantage in NSW. It’s aim is to bring a university education within the reach of students in remote and regional NSW through a variety of experiences and academic support so that students and their communities can overcome the barriers to access and succeed in a university education.

Category 3 Pre-service teachers or institutions recognising demonstrated excellence in professional learning practice in rural, regional and/or remote settings.

Winner: Rural Clinic Placement, a joint project between CQUniversity and Rockhampton Catholic Education. Over the past two years this program has enabled third year Bachelor of Oral Health students from CQUniversity to complete a voluntary rural placement in their mid‐term break. The students educate school children about oral health and treat patients in Central Queensland. The placement co‐ordinator, Associate Professor Leonie Short, has worked with Ross Jones, Assistant Director Schools: Western Region from the Catholic Education Office Diocese of Rockhampton, to organise the placement of students. The CQUniversity students plan and deliver oral health education classes in the Catholic primary schools, located in Emerald, Springsure and Clermont.  In addition the Oral Health students visit and work in the dental clinics at Springsure and Emerald hospitals. The students examine teeth and perform restorations (fillings) for the child patients. They also visit a number of dental practices in Emerald and work with the staff in those centres.

Category 4 Projects based in, or benefiting, rural, regional and/or remote international settings.

Winner: German LOTE program – Calen District State College. The Calen District State College is a small rural P-12 school with a total enrolment of 230 students. German is the LOTE taught at the school to students from years 5 to 12. One of the problems facing students of languages other than English (LOTE) in rural communities is often the lack of the opportunity to engage in conversations with native born speakers of that language.  Another problem is that rural students often have limited experience of the world beyond their communities. This project aims to overcome these problems establishing relationships with schools in Germany. Establishing email pen-pal relationship wiht students in Germany and offering Calen students the opportunity to visit Germany, experience another culture, visit larger communities and speak with native born speakers in their native tongue. The students from urban communities in Germany get to experience life in a rural community in Australia and to attend a small rural school.

An AREA Commendation was also given to the KITES (Kids in Town Engaged in School) School, Alice Springs for their project ‘Re-Engaging Kids with School’ – KITES. A whole-school program developed and driven by educator Jenny Buckley to provide a space for accessible, safe and consistent provision of learning & teaching. KITES addresses social and educational needs of children from remote areas of the Northern Territory and other states, who are ‘visiting’ Alice Springs. 


SPERA in conjunction with SiMERR National Research Centre at the University of New England this year also presented the International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education (ISFIRE) Award. This award was awarded in recognition of ‘Innovative strategies for improving equity in rural education in international settings’. This was awarded to the Pacific Education and Development Team, University of New England for the Nauru Teacher Education Project. In 2013, the University of New England won a tender to develop an innovative program to train local teachers in Nauru in partnership with the Republic of Nauru and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia. The program aims to address the heavy reliance on expatriate teachers, resulting from increasing gaps in the supply of quality local teachers proficient in subject, content and pedagogy. This is achieved whilst meeting the requirements of the Nauru Education Act (2011) that requires a two‐year teaching qualification and delivers a quality higher education experience that is contextualised to the Pacific.Notable

Notable Nominations for the 2016 Awards included:

  • Unichoice , Edith Cowan University
  • LEAP – Links (Virtual Classrooms), Macquarie University
  • The Tertiary Enabling Program, La Trobe University
  • RuralBiz Training, Kreate Pty Ltd
  • Supported Pathways to Education and Employment: Rural and Regional Program, University of Wollongong
  • LEAP – Links (Digital Literacy), Macquarie University

Winners received complimentary SPERA Conference registration, during which they had an opportunity to showcase their successful projects. Winners also received a trophy and prize of $500 each to further their endeavors.