Prof Chris Sarra


Professor Chris Sarra is the founder and Chairman of the Stronger Smarter Institute Limited and Professorof Education at the University of Canberra. He is also a sole Director of his own Business and Leadership Consultancy, Strong Smart Solutions.

In 2016, Chris received the prestigious NAIDOC Person of the Year Award as recognition for ongoing and relentless efforts to positively change educational expectations of Indigenous children throughout Australia. Despite limited teacher expectations of Chris as a student he went on to achieve many distinguished academic credentials including a Diploma of Teaching, a Bachelor of Education, a Master of Education and a PhD in Psychology with Murdoch University. He also has an Executive Masters in Public Administration and a Diploma from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Professor Sarra became best known in the late 1990s when he took on the challenges of Indigenous education as Principal of Cherbourg State School in South East Queensland. Through Chris’ leadership the school became nationally acclaimed for its pursuit of the Stronger Smarter philosophy, which significantly improved the educational and life outcomes of its students. His life’s work is reflected in his biography Good Morning Mr Sarra: my life working for a stronger, smarter future for our children.


Professor Chris Sarra’s work at Cherbourg State School, an Aboriginal community school in South East Queensland, was groundbreaking, exposing the teaching profession and Aboriginal communities to a newer, more positive and honourable reality in which Aboriginal children could be stronger and smarter. After 7 years at Cherbourg he founded the Stronger Smarter Institute, which has worked with and inspired more than 2500 school and Aboriginal community leaders in more than 500 schools. The tide of low expectations did change and today there is no place to hide without being challenged, in any classroom in Australia for any teacher of Aboriginal children. 

In his address Professor Sarra will reflect upon his personal and professional journey and invite us to contemplate how we as educators might learn from this and set about purging the stench of low expectations in our own schools.

Masterclass: Unpacking Aboriginal Student Baggage: A framework for understanding and responding to the social and cultural context of Indigenous learners

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.’

In this session Professor Sarra will work with teachers and school leaders offering a very simple framework for deeper reflection on, and more responsive engagement with the social and cultural context of Indigenous student learners. The workshop is not a ‘cross-cultural’ session, but rather a session that encourages critical self-reflection for educators, and a way of better understanding Indigenous learners. The session will also share effective strategies that really do work for Indigenous children.