• Singleton High School (Facebook: Singleton High School)Source: Facebook: Singleton High School
The NSW education department says it is investigating an incident at a Hunter Valley high school after a 14-year-old student said she was racially abused by a teacher during a lesson on diversity.
Keira Jenkins

30 Jun 2020 - 10:19 AM  UPDATED 30 Jun 2020 - 10:19 AM

Mary Franks received a phone call from her 14-year-old daughter Alaura last week, telling her she'd been racially abused by a teacher.

Ms Franks was shocked. Her daughter told her that the teacher made racist comments, including calling Aboriginal people "dole bludgers" and saying that colonisation was the "best thing to happen to Aboriginal people" after a presentation on diversity.

Alaura, who is a young Wonnarua woman, was one of four Indigenous students in the classroom. 

Ms Franks said that Alaura stood up to the teacher after she made the comments, before the teacher told her she was "too white" to be recognised as Aboriginal.

Ms Franks told NITV News Alaura then left the classroom and made the phone call to her mother.

"I was in shock," Ms Franks said.

"It's 2020, how can a teacher say those things to my daughter, to other students?"

The NSW Department of Education said that Singleton High School in the Hunter Valley received complaints that a teacher had made racist comments during a lesson on diversity.

"The school and the Department do not condone racism in any form," the department said in a statement provided to NITV News.

"The school prides itself on its strong history of support for Indigenous students and the opportunities it has been able to provide.

"The complaints were immediately followed up with the school’s Anti Racism Contact Officer and senior staff, the school met with the family, and support was arranged for students.

"The teacher apologised for her comments to the class, student and her family."

'Cut deep'

Ms Franks said she has seen a change in Alaura since the incident.

"This has cut deep," she said.

"For a teacher to belittle and racially abuse her, I think she's still processing. She is strong, she has the strength of her ancestors with her.

"But I do see a change in her. This has hurt her and she's trying to understand why this would happen. I think she's still in disbelief."

But Ms Franks said she's proud of the way her daughter handled the situation.

"I said to her, 'I'll come pick you up'," Ms Franks said.

"She just said to me, 'no, I'm not going to leave because of this, I have a maths test', and I was so proud of her strength, so proud of her courage."

While the teacher has apologised for the comments, Ms Franks said more needs to be done.

She said she was disappointed to learn the teacher was at the school for the remainder of last week. Alaura told her that her "heart had skipped a beat" when she saw the teacher at the school.

Ms Franks said she'd like to see more education about Indigenous culture for students and staff in schools.

"That's the only way to stop this kind of racism, is more education about culture," she said.

"The teacher shouldn't be at school, I don't want the teacher near Alaura because I know her education will suffer.

"I just wish that this hadn't happened, but that's not possible now."

The Department of Education said the teacher is on "alternate duties" while an investigation is carried out.