A CAREER change nine years ago led Len Yarran (48) to helping countless youths find direction and has resulted in him receiving the WA Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer of the Year award last month.
An upholsterer by trade, Mr Yarran came to Balga Senior High School in 2006 to help his uncle, who taught there.
He said when he first arrived there were inter-racial tensions that he had since been able to allay by helping to implement several strategies to promote education and understanding.
“I remember the first time I came here there was an African fight with Nyungars and there was a lot of confrontation between cultures,” Mr Yarran said.
“Sometimes I help in classes when the teacher can’t put up with the students anymore; for some, swearing was their first language.
“Some of them swear all the time and I say to the teacher ‘they are not swearing at you, they are swearing because they can’t do the work, because they don’t have a pen, because they haven’t got lunch’.
“Over the years, having the opportunity to play a part in different strategies, it’s been overwhelming.”
Mr Yarran said that over time he had seen a change in students’ behaviour.
“This is the thing that is going to help us as Aboriginal people bridge the gap… it will help them understand about reconciliation and forgiveness, dignity and help us with our culture,” he said.
“I live my work now; we have created a resource centre and going through the steps of keeping the kids at school.”
The WADJAK Resource Centre opened in November and mentors Department of Child Protection children.
Mr Yarran, who was born and raised in Northam, said his program went beyond the confines of the classroom.
He received the award for his personal philosophy of building self-determination, governance and social responsibility.