Marsden State High School teacher Sheree Ruri has been recognised for the impactful cultural projects she leads at Queensland’s largest high school. With her New Zealand Māori background, Sheree began her teaching career in 2020 as a bilingual teacher before moving to Australia. She has been described as someone who creates a sense of community and belonging for both students and staff.
With over 3800 students, a large proportion of whom are from English as second language backgrounds, Sheree has helped manage rich and meaningful opportunities for the whole Marsden State High School community to feel seen and heard. One includes the Pasifika Focus Group, in which Sheree identified the need for parent voice when planning for and around Pasifika students. She expanded the group to include the wider school community, and it now attracts a significant number of parents, local religious leaders and cultural advisors.
Another initiaive Sheree has led includes cultural parent engagement evenings each term, which are aimed at reducing barriers that minimise parent engagement. Collaborating with the school community, she ensures each event is culturally appropriate and authentic. Sheree’s leadership has seen hundreds of attendees at each event, including Pasifika, African and Asian families.
Other meaningful initiatives Sheree has played piviotal roles in include the establishment of a Muslim prayer room at the school, Te Reo Māori language classes, online cultural professional development resources for staff, and implementing cultural language week celebrations. She has also established an inter-school netball competition, which helps build relationships with other local schools. Sheree’s work saw her receive Marsden State High School’s Community Award in 2022.
Before beginning as a teacher in New Zealand, Sheree worked in community development with low socio-economic communities, including communities affected by the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. She believes in the Māori proverb – “Poipoia te kakano, kia puawai” – which translates to “nurture the seed and it will blossom”. Sheree says this means spending time learning from students about who they are personally and how they learn best, to be better equipped at fostering caring relationships that provide the foundation for them to flourish.
In her nomination, colleagues wrote:
“She has provided the platform for Marsden students to proudly display their cultural heritage in a way that is authentic and reinforces their value within our school.”