Partnering with First Nations families helps create culture of safety


BCE’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Participation Officers Gracey McGrath and Danita Martin. 

BCE’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Participation Officers Gracey McGrath and Danita Martin work tirelessly to ensure First Nations students are safe and school communities remain engaged every day. 

At the core of what they do, Gracey and Danita create connection to families within BCE school communities with the aim to ensure the Voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families are heard, and cultural considerations also taken into account. 

“We make the time to listen to people’s stories, to sit and yarn about what is happening at school and home, while we consider how we can make a plan to move forward,” Danita said. 

“Building strong relationships with parents is the key to success in our roles. 

“Sometimes we’re Aunties, sometimes we’re a mentor, we wear many hats in our role.”  
Danita said it is essential that schools create culturally safe spaces that allow families to speak openly and honestly. 

“Families need to feel safe to speak about their concerns and worries that are impacting the education of their child,” she said. 

“It is about building relationships and trust. 

You must give it time, that is why our roles are so valuable because we can take the necessary time to listen.” 

Gracey and Danita are proactive in creating culturally safe spaces for First Nations families where they can connect culturally as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.  

They say this allows them to listen to one another and support each other as a community.   

They have both been integral in creating women’s yarning circles and making space for mothers to connect with Elders within their communities. 

The yarning circles help support the engagement and participation of the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents within BCE’s community of schools.  

Gracey also works with students in schools, creating opportunities for them to connect with each other. 

She also provides them with the chance to have a Voice about what happens within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spaces at their schools. 

Safeguarding Specialist Claire Pirola said it is important to have an inclusive approach to safeguarding that draws on the knowledge of families, carers, and communities.  

“We cannot do this without them,” she said.  

“We rely on their engagement to inform BCE about practices and environments that are safe for children.  

We are in awe of the great work that Gracey, Danita, and their colleagues are doing in this space. 

Brisbane Catholic Education is committed to working towards genuine and sustainable Reconciliation, to develop a culturally safe and welcoming education system for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, employees, and our wider community. To find out more click here. 

The safety of students is Brisbane Catholic Education’s top priority as they work to embed 10 National Catholic Safeguarding Standards in 2023, One of those standards is Standard 3 – Partnering with families, carers, and communities. Standard 3 ensures that families, carers, and communities are informed and involved in promoting the safeguarding of children and adults. 


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