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The first Aboriginal graduate

Len Hayward

In the first 10 years of ECU’s education of Aboriginal tertiary students, only four graduates benefitted from the experience, the first being Len Hayward who graduated from the then Claremont Teachers’ College in 1951.

In 1979, Mr Hayward went on to become Western Australia’s first Aboriginal Principal after being promoted to Principal Class II of Wiluna Special Aboriginal School.

Len was already a trail-blazer by the time he commenced Teachers’ College, having been a star athlete and footballer. His sporting prowess won him popularity and acceptance at a time when there were huge divides between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. He had also won the support of others in the teaching profession, a number of whom mentored him and encouraged him on his journey.

Lessons learned

Decades later, many university students from country areas of Western Australia have similar experiences, having to move away from families and communities, often reliant on scholarships and other financial support to do so. There are lessons to be learned from Len’s journey, many of which reflect ECU’s current values and priorities – lessons like:

  • The importance of having goals and aspirations
  • Properly facilitating community engagement and involvement
  • Building industry partnerships to encourage momentum for initiatives
  • Providing an enriched learning environment and educational experiences
  • Using personal skills to lead and to develop the potential of others
  • Acting on the belief that Education is a life-long endeavour.

1951 was a long time ago and Len’s journey to becoming the first Aboriginal member of the WA teaching profession and then practising his craft was ground-breaking. Since then, over 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have reached their potential and graduated, becoming part of ECU’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Alumni community.

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