First national awards for reconciliation excellence in education

Queanbeyan Public School and Explore and Develop Penrith South today took out the inaugural Narragunnawali Awards for excellence in reconciliation within the education sector.

Singing songs in First Nations languages, learning to tackle racism and blogging about the use of Indigenous practices in the classroom were among the host of reconciliation actions celebrated at the awards ceremony at the University of Canberra.

The Narragunnawali Awards – held in partnership with BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities – celebrate the efforts of an outstanding school (and two finalists) and an outstanding early learning service (and two finalists), as selected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education experts.

The awards build on Reconciliation Australia’s work, through Narragunnawali, to help schools and early learning services foster a higher level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Narragunnawali program general manager Alex Shain said a strength of each of the finalists was that they demonstrated a holistic approach to reconciliation.

“What really impressed the judges about each of the finalists was that they were engaged in action not just in the classroom but also around the school and, importantly, with the community,” Mr Shain said.

“The important work that these students, their teachers and broader communities are doing is testament to the crucial role that education can play in promoting reconciliation between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

To be eligible to apply for the awards, schools and early learning services must have commenced or completed a Reconciliation Action Plan [RAP].

Narragunnawali supports schools and early learning services to develop RAPs, which help build strong relationships, respect and opportunities in classrooms and communities.

Narragunnawali also consists of a platform that offers a wide range of free resources that help teachers and educators bring reconciliation into the classroom.

More than 11,000 individuals and more than 1,800 schools and early learning services – equivalent to nine per cent of schools and early learning services nationwide – are current users of the platform.

Summary of finalists


  • WINNER – Queanbeyan Public School (Queanbeyan) have developed deep and broad relationships with community, creating a palpable sense that Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples, histories and cultures are an integral part of the school and its environs.
  • FINALIST – Middle Park Primary School (Melbourne) have developed relationships with community, enabling the school to incorporate local language into day-to-day school life. They have committed to a long-term plan to continue their reconciliation journey.
  • FINALIST – St Virgil’s College (Hobart) have implemented impressive projects focusing on the physical and social school environments. Their work has been led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and enthusiastically supported by the wider school community.

Early learning services

  • WINNER – Explore and Develop Penrith South (Western Sydney) haven’t shied away from difficult conversations. They have engaged their young students in learning about Stolen Generations and the challenges of holding our national day on January 26.
  • FINALIST – At Balnarring Pre-School (Mornington Peninsula), the connection between reconciliation and the importance of the environmental sustainability featured strongly in the classroom, around the school and with the community.
  • FINALIST – Uranquinty Pre-School (Wagga Wagga) has done impressive work, as a rural community-run preschool, to build knowledge and understanding among children, parents and community members alike.


  • Geraldine Atkinson is a Bangerang/Wiradjuri woman who has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available to Koorie people through education.
  • Sharon Davis is a proud Bardi Kija woman with a drive for Aboriginal education and a passion for Aboriginal English.
  • Professor Peter Buckskin is a Narungga man from the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. He began his career as a teacher and educator 38 years ago.
Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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