Cultural Residents Project

Connecting communities and schools

Aunty Maxine with students at Chifley Public School

Project name:

Cultural Residents Project (CRP): Connecting communities and schools

Project overview:

The Cultural Residents Project is a flagship research and education initiative within the UNSW Matraville Education Partnership that seeks to strengthen the relationships between schools and Aboriginal communities and to improve the teaching of local Indigenous perspectives in schools, for the benefit of all students.

A joint initiative between the Eastern Suburbs Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) and UNSW School of Education, the Cultural Residents Project is a proof of concept for the Know Your Country campaign, which calls for employment of a First Nations Cultural Educator in every primary school, in order to ‘close the knowledge gap’ in non-Indigenous people’s understanding about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. 

Project objectives:

The Cultural Residents Project seeks to demonstrate the benefits of employing local First Nations cultural educators in schools, so that all Australians can become better educated about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, histories and cultures.

First Nations communities have long fought for greater authority and agency in connection with formal schooling. Although the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers mandate that all teachers should have an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and the ACARA Cross-Curriculum Priorities require the teaching of Indigenous perspectives across all disciplines, the largely non-Indigenous teaching workforce feels ill-equipped to teach Indigenous perspectives in a meaningful way.

Research shows that partnerships between schools and Indigenous communities, and the embedding of First Nations cultural knowledge and perspectives in schools, can improve schooling for ALL students. We aim to illustrate the impact of having a First Nations Cultural Resident employed in schools to improve the teaching of First Nations perspectives. We believe this should be a mainstay of every Australian school.

Research question:

  • What practices and strategies effectively assist learning communities with improving relationships and better valuing the contribution of parents, carers and community members with providing culturally responsive and sustaining educational experiences and improving achievements in schooling?

Who is involved:


  • Rose is a Senior Lecturer in the UNSW School of Education. Rose’s research, teaching, and service activities are motivated by her commitment to community development and creating equitable and safe environments for marginalised and disadvantaged communities.

  • Katherine is the Manager of the UNSW Matraville Education Partnership, liaising between the UNSW School of Education, the schools hosting a Cultural Resident, and the Eastern Suburbs Local AECG.  She also acts as a Research Assistant on the project.

  • Aunty Maxine is a Dharawal woman and Cultural Resident employed by the project from 2020-mid-2022, working in local schools to strengthen the teaching of Aboriginal perspectives.

  • Trent is a Yuin and Wailwan man who has grown up in the La Perouse community. He has experience as a School Learning and Support Officer and with cultural education initiatives, and is employed as a Cultural Resident from mid-2022.

  • Kevin is a Gubbi Gubbi man from southeast Queensland. He is an Associate Professor and Scientia Indigenous Fellow in the UNSW School of Education. Kevin consults on the project to develop sustainable improvements in Aboriginal education and a new pedagogic framework for all teachers.

  • Aimelyn is a Research Assistant on the project. Aimelyn has a background as a primary school teacher working in inclusive, culturally and linguistically diverse primary school communities in NSW.


  • The Eastern Suburbs Local AECG has a working group that supports the project. AECG representatives meet monthly with the project team for consultation and to provide advice.

  • An innovator in teaching and research, UNSW School of Education employs the researchers involved in the project, including the Cultural Residents.

    The project is made possible through philanthropic support from the Crown Resorts Foundation and Packer Family Foundation.

Project updates / milestones:

  • The Cultural Residents project is in its third and final year of its current funding. Despite setbacks in face-to-face learning and community interaction that have occurred since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the initiative is currently flourishing in two Eastern Suburbs schools.

    Based on data and feedback from the first two years, it was decided to place the Cultural Resident in the same two schools across all of 2022, in order to deepen the opportunities for relationship-building and intentional curricular and pedagogic planning between school staff and the Cultural Residents.

    Principals and staff from these schools are engaged in regular, ongoing professional learning sessions aimed at deepening their connection with the local community and their integration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content into the curriculum.

    The research team is in the process of collecting data, conducting interviews, and working with the schools and AECG to generate a toolkit based on learnings from the project, which will provide a framework to assist other schools and communities who may be interested in partnering in this way to improve education for all students.

    Members of the public are welcome to attend the Cultural Residents Project Showcase on November 24, 2022, to learn more about the project and its outcomes. Register here via Eventbrite.


Contact us

For general enquiries, please contact Katherine Thompson, Matraville Education Partnership Manager:

T: +61 9065 2108