Lynette Riley - Academic Coordinator

Lyn is a Wiradjuri / Gamilaroi person, raised and schooled in Dubbo (central western NSW), with extensive periods spent in Moree (North West NSW). Her father is Keith Riley of Dubbo and her Mother is Delma (nee) Wright of Moree. Lyn has seven children and a growing number of grandchildren.

Lyn’s career has been diverse and has involved working in Aboriginal affairs in both academic and other arenas. She has consistently had to conduct research to develop fresh approaches to address enduring and often sensitive Indigenous issues based on appropriate Indigenous community consultation processes. An example of this was as Manager, Aboriginal Programs Unit, NSW Department Education and Training (DET) and Acting Director, Aboriginal Education and Training Directorate, NSW DET (2002 – 2005).

In her position at state level of operations with the NSW Department of Education, Lyn was responsible for assessing current practices and planning new approaches to achieve improved outcomes for Aboriginal students from pre-school, infants, primary, high school, and in Vocational Education and Training (VET). This involved ensuring involvement of all stakeholders, open communication, and challenging within the system for new approaches, to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal students. An example of one such challenge was in response to the deficit approach in Aboriginal education, where programs in operation were aimed at the lower band of Aboriginal students. Lyn instigated a Gifted and Talented Pilot Program, which was trialled, with an aim to introduce this into the school system in the near future.

Lyn was also instrumental in ensuring a review was held into the practices being used in Aboriginal education (NSW DET, Aboriginal Education Review, 2004). At the completion of the review she assisted with the development of new approaches to be taken, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of the findings.

Lyn has been required to translate research findings into practical use which has resulted in effecting real change for Aboriginal people in their home communities. For example, as Aboriginal Development Manager (1994-1998) with the Western Institute of TAFE (WIT) she was required to assess the practices and processes being used and determine what approach was required to service the needs of Aboriginal communities across Western NSW (45% of NSW). This involved: creating a team from the solo operations of the Aboriginal Education Co-ordinators (based at Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Walgett, Bourke and Broken Hill), developing new assessment tools to research and analyse Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities; through determining what TAFE staff required to better support Aboriginal students; what were the requirements of businesses and organisations across the region; and putting into place planned action strategies to ensure improvements were implemented. Evidencing her ability to develop research instruments, the assessment tool – Community Profiling - was adopted by all other TAFE Institutes and is now being expanded and used in determining school approaches with Aboriginal communities.

As an Aboriginal person Lyn has been required not to just theorise about what was occurring to Aboriginal people, children, and communities or the interwoven interactions with non-Aboriginal people, communities and organisations; but rather to be actively involved in researching and implementing new solutions and effecting lasting change in the communities she has lived in and with whom she has had cultural affiliations. This has meant that Lyn's career has sometimes taken twists and turns, which many non-Aboriginal people find bizarre; given that Lyn does not focus on moving up the “ladder of progression” in career and promotions, but rather, takes greater account of community needs and how her skills could provide vital support to effect change. This has enabled her to facilitate greater interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It has also resulted in providing Aboriginal people with the skills and confidence required to set their own agendas and in the words of Maslow, become “self-actualised”, to become agents of social, cultural and inter-relationship change by being active agents in their communities.

Lyn's career has therefore required that she develop a range of skills that are highly pertinent to Indigenous issues including both academic study (e.g. Graduate Diploma in Aboriginal Studies, 1980), and practical employment skills (e.g. Ethics and Accountability Training and Trainer, 1994; Responsible Service of Alcohol and Gaming, 2000). Lyn has also drawn on these academic and practical skills to better support community growth and development at the local level (e.g. Chair Reconciliation Group, Dubbo, 1995-2002); State level (e.g. NSW State Reconciliation, 1997–2003); and national perspectives. She has ensured that her research and practical skills have resulted in providing support in the provision of programmes to educate Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in issues which would provide personal growth and development (e.g. How to Analyse Resources for Cultural Bias, 1983, 1987; the development of: the Kinship Game (1988); Cultural Education for Reconciliation Groups (1995–2005); Aboriginal Cultural Education Program and Trainer Program (1996). Her involvement in research projects has led to the development of long-term programs and capital development including the: Mobile Library (MOLI) for western NSW in partnership with the Dubbo City Library (1996); an Aboriginal Resource Centre, attached to the library at the Dubbo TAFE Campus (1996); the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Practices Centre (opened in 2004) based on research Lyn carried out in 1994; and other successful funds submissions throughout her career.

Lyn takes pride in being an active agent for change and in using academic research in practical application to effect sustained change for all people. Initiatives she has been involved in include: strengthening education programs in Tranby College (1982–1985) where as Head Teacher, Skills Education she developed an Aboriginal Adult Literacy Course and an Aboriginal Resource Library. Lyn also established the Aboriginal Student Support Centre, “Oorala Centre” at UNE (1986 –1992) and in this position started the longest held Indigenous Annual Lecture Series, the ‘Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture’, for which she was asked to present the 25th Year Lecture (2011). Lyn has also been involved in the development of an Aboriginal Studies program with an Aboriginal Studies major in the Bachelor of Arts Degree (1990); and introduced Aboriginal perspectives in faculties across UNE and in programs of study. In TAFE Lyn undertook a research project which resulted in the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Practices course (1995). Hence she has undertaken research that has led to successful initiatives in a range of educational and community settings.
Currently Lyn is completing her PhD through UWS, in ‘Conditions of Success for Aboriginal Students’ for which she received an ACER Indigenous Research Grant (2008-2012) of $105k. This has involved using qualitative interviewing of 128 year 5-6 Aboriginal school students, parents, teachers, principals and other Aboriginal staff in public schools. She is also involved with a team of other academic and IT staff – Janet Mooney & Cat Kutay - in creating an on-line presentation of her ‘Kinship’ workshop for which an ALTC Grant of $220k was provided (20012-2013).

Lyn has also been instrumental in instigating new approaches to working with Aboriginal people such as: the Western Institute of TAFE (WIT), Aboriginal Education Strategic Plan, (1994); Aboriginal Student Gifted and Talented Program, NSW DET (2005); Aboriginal Cultural Education Program (2004–2005); and the NSW DET, Aboriginal Education Review (2004). All programs developed have been created based on academic research procedures and action research, with the active involvement of various stakeholders to ensure ownership and sustainability of the future of these programs. The processes involved have meant utilising and developing, new methods of gathering information and then ensuring the total involvement of all parties.

Example – WIT, Strategic Plans (1994 – 1999):

  • Community profiles for each community, eg WIT Strategic Plans;
  • Analysis of the information gathered in the profiles;
  • Workshop findings – with Aboriginal staff and community groups, teachers, executive and other staff within WIT and other external groups such as city council representatives and business groups;
  • Reports based on findings; and
  • Evaluation of programs, ongoing and presented in Annual Reports.

An ongoing consequence of these involvements has meant a consistent need to present papers and open debate at all levels such as with: community groups; Aboriginal organisations; education forums; local councils; academic conferences; and being an Indigenous representative in education at state, national and international forums.

Lyn's current involvements are with:

  • ACER - Australian Council Education Research, Standing Committee Indigenous Education, Committee Member. Elected as Chairperson 2011.
  • YALP, Board of Directors
  • VISCOPY, Board of Directors

Contact Details:

Lynette Riley
Phone: (02) 9351 6995
Toll Free: 1800 622 742
Fax: (02) 9351 6924
Location: Room 223a, Old Teachers College
Email: lynette.riley@sydney.edu.au