One powerful image of equity is that ‘everyone has a place at the table and a voice at the table’. This is Sandra Brogden’s hope for Australia and a catalyst for her curious reflection, rightfully questioning why there isn’t a bigger representation of Aboriginal people across all areas of society?
Sandra is warm, wise and articulate. She laughs easily. Her stories are engaging, reflecting a rich tapestry of life experiences and ancestry.
Minang Noongar people of South West of Western Australia and Karajarri and Bardi people of the Kimberley are Sandra’s proud lineage.
Russell Brogden was traveling around Australia, when he arrived in Albany and met Sandra. They married and welcomed their twins Jack and Chloe, who are now twenty-two years of age. Geelong has been their home for many years. Sandra’s wish for her own children is that they will grow to be the best of themselves and always be kind…no doubt reflective of her own modus operandi.
Sandra’s Mum was a nurse. Her Dad, although having left school in Year Seven, embraced the importance of lifelong learning for their seven children. He ended up as a Health Worker after managing an expansive Aboriginal Corporation in the South West of Western Australia
Family and education were two of many important values imparted to Sandra by her parents. She credits them with giving her a strong sense of identity and tangible connection with culture and community. Working hard and completing school, Sandra went on to become a teacher. The longer her involvement in education the more impassioned she became about improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. She has witnessed what a catalyst education can be for real social change.
Sandra’s professional life has been rich and varied, too comprehensive to completely notate. Her current position is a Consultant to Indigenous Education, across the four campuses of Geelong Grammar and many other voluntary and professional roles, related to education and culture.
During her rich and diverse career Sandra also returned to Perth, working as an Educational Team Leader for ten years. After this tenure she relocated to Broome to connect with that space, spend precious time with her grandparents and work throughout the Kimberley’s supporting schools in the capacity of Educational Consultancy.
Sandra, Russell and their adult children are always assured of a loving welcome when they return to family in WA. Holding a kaleidoscope of experiences and memories, Sandra’s love of family, culture and stories pertaining to these, are at times poignant, funny and always transformative.
One such small anecdote is of Sandra’s ‘Aunties’ sitting in Church, wanting to bring Sandra ‘up to speed’ on local news. They ‘point’ with their lips when wanting to identify someone involved in their story. A smile plays on one’s own lips, as you visualise this group of beautiful elders, imagining that they are being so discrete as they all purse their lips in the same direction. They may unwittingly have been catalysts for the ‘prop and pout’ social media generation.
A reflective human, Sandra ponders the philosophical questions, “What I do? Who I am? How I do it?”, to remain focused and effective.
The answers to these self-reflective questions are patently clear to anyone who knows her. Sandra has a very strong work ethic, a great sense of humour and a wonderful balance of intellect and common sense. She is grounded yet visionary; determined to continue to address intergenerational
trauma through education and connection, across our vast, ancient land and within the Djilang, Geelong community.
There is still so much work to be done. Sandra is a realist and recognises the challenges within education, a microcosm of our broader societal issues, that still need to be comprehensively addressed. However, in and through this, her work and her gentle positivity personify the Aboriginal saying, “Keep your eyes on the sun and you will not see the shadows”.
Sovereignty has never been ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Sandra continues to be a wise and passionate advocate and architect for
– changing the ‘look and feel’ of schools for Aboriginal students.
-working with teachers to include Aboriginal perspectives in the curriculum
-working with school leadership on how to more authentically embrace real inclusivity.
As Sandra explains “If schools are changing their practise for Aboriginal students, it is changing the practice for all students and everyone benefits.”
Sandra Brogden’s local voluntary work and professional career are the embodiment of the Aboriginal Proverb,
“Traveller, there are no paths. Paths are made by walking.”
Geelong is more than fortunate that Sandra, Russell and their family created a path that led them to ‘walk’ into our lives all those years ago. Our Educational institutions, our students and our community have benefited exponentially from the numerous paths Sandra has forged since arriving in Djilang, the original name of Geelong.
Sandra Brogden’s Story written by Jacinta Foster-Raimondo