Chris Sarra

Having just read Noel Pearson’s Quarterly Essay, I regret that he hasn’t had the time to take us up on our offer to visit at least one of our Stronger Smarter schools across the country. There is so much we could help him understand. I found his analysis of my work a little misguided and somewhat naive. While he tries, he clearly struggles to get the fundamental importance of how schools must develop and embrace a positive Aboriginal identity in a schools context, and surprisingly he offers virtually nothing on developing and embracing Aboriginal leadership in education. Perhaps this is symptomatic of a legal mind too much in dialogue with consultants, as compared to an educator in dialogue with a national network of educators.

Ultimately this doesn’t matter when we consider his demands. Noel wants Aboriginal children to retain and sustain a sense of pride in their cultural identity. He wants them to be stronger. He demands a No Excuses policy that is determined to deliver academic excellence for our children. He wants them to be smarter.

There is always room in our ranks for others to join in our demand for a stronger, smarter future for Indigenous Australian children. He is welcome on my team any day.

Chris Sarra

Chris Sarra is the director of the Queensland government’s Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership. He was previously principal of the Cherbourg State School.


This correspondence discusses Quarterly Essay 35, Radical Hope. To read the full essay, subscribe or buy the book.

This correspondence featured in Quarterly Essay 36, Australian Story.


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