After working as an educator and role model for the kids of south east Katherine for more than 30 years, Anita Painter got her teaching degree. And now she's on a mission to inspire other First Nations people to do the same.
Born and bred in the remote community of Barunga, around an hour's drive from Katherine, NT, the Dalabon woman knew from a young age that working with kids was her calling, and she got her first job as an assistant teacher at Barunga school when she was 20 or 21.
"My passion is in education, learning, you know, teaching kids. I love working with kids, teaching them, guiding them," she said.
"When kids go to school and you have a little child...look at you and they just smile at you for no reason. That makes my day."
In the late 90's, the 55-year-old completed the Remote Aboriginal Teacher Education (RATE) program through Batchelor Institute while she continued working at the school and raising her three children.
And then after a few years in the classroom, she decided to go back. And, last year she graduated with her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education.
"After all that, it was a relief. Because it's as if I had all the burden on me, good burden, of course. It was worthwhile doing it," Ms Painter said.
She now has her own language and culture class, teaching her first language of Dalabon to transition students all the way up to Grade 12.
Ms Painter said kids learning First Nations languages from a young age is vital to their education.
"Because our community is made up of 15 different languages, it's hard to try and choose just one. Jawoyn is the main language, we're on Jawoyn land, but we don't have any elders who speak fluently," she said.
"For myself as a Dalabon person...I'm fortunate enough to know enough to teach the kids language so that's what I'm doing.
"Another language is the foundation, it's the starting point of going into what I did, I was taught both ways. So that should be happening."
Ms Painter now has a vision for the future, not just in her community but for the rest of Australia - and it involves Indigenous people becoming teachers in their own communities.
"I want an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. I think that's important for our school, and that's important for our kids and our Indigenous young people...we have so many Indigenous young people who want to be teachers. My push is to try to get them trained," she said.
"Indigenous teachers need to be equal to non-Indigenous teachers, they need to share programs, they need to talk ideas, not just using...people like us to sharpen pencils, they're more than that.
"I was fortunate enough to be trained by Indigenous teachers who were locals...and I wouldn't be where I am today without that bilingual program."
Ms Painter acknowledged that there were extra challenges that Indigenous people faced in completing their teaching degree, but had some words of advice for aspiring teachers.
"If you think you're going to fail just think 'I'm going to tell you about my passion, because that is what is pushing me, pushing me, no matter what.'"
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