'Proper Deadly': Student memories of adult education under Indigenous control: Tranby, 1980-2000


  • Heather Goodall University of Technology Sydney https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8643-5624
  • Heidi Norman University of Technology Sydney
  • Belinda Russon Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training




adult student experience, schooling, racism, confidence, gender, co-operative


The voices of students about the early days of Indigenous-controlled adult education providers are hard to find. In historical research for Tranby National Indigenous Education and Training and the University of Technology Sydney 24 former participants of Tranby courses from 1980 to 2000 gave in-depth interviews, which were analysed alongside Tranby’s archival holdings for the first two decades under Indigenous CEOs and Board Chair. Tranby drew students from across the country with goals ranging from improving literacy to gaining skills for community roles, accessing further education or allowing promotion. Informal interviews with seven former Tranby teachers added information on subject design and teaching strategies.  The former students’ interviews focussed on Tranby’s atmosphere and learning environment, strongly valuing the perspectives they learned from their fellow Indigenous students. Most felt that, while formal courses were useful, these contextual and informal experiences were more useful in their later careers. 


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Author Biographies

Heather Goodall, University of Technology Sydney

Heather Goodall is Professor Emerita in History, at the University of Technology Sydney.  She taught at Tranby in the early 1980s and researched in two Royal Commissions, that into British Nuclear testing in Australia [reporting 1985] and that into Black Deaths in Custody [1991]. Her books include Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in NSW [1996]; the collaborative life story co-authored with Isabel Flick, Isabel Flick: the many lives of an extraordinary Aboriginal woman [2004] and, co-authored with Kevin Cook, the political history, Making Change Happen [2013].

Heidi Norman, University of Technology Sydney

Heidi Norman is Professor in Social and Political Sciences, School of Communication, UTS.  She researchers and publishes in the areas of NSW Aboriginal history and politics with a particular focus on land and its management and the Aboriginal administrative domain.  Her most recent book is a study of Aboriginal Land rights in NSW (published in 2015). Her new area of research is focused on Aboriginal people’s interests in pursuing land management and cultural aspirations on their land, alongside imperatives to pursue economic development.

Belinda Russon, Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training

Dr Belinda Russon is the Chief Executive Officer of Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training. An experienced solicitor, she has been associated with Tranby since 2004, as Program Manager of the National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Program and later, in 2013, the Chief Executive Officer of Tranby. She has extensive research experience in Indigenous legal, human rights and social justice issues and long managerial experience in Indigenous organisations. She holds a Masters in Law (Human Rights and Social Justice) and a Doctorate of Juridical Science (investigating domestic violence outcomes for Aboriginal women). She has recently been the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship (2013, to Norway, Canada and the USA) and a Fullbright Scholarship (2017: First Nations’ programs in various American Colleges).


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How to Cite

Goodall, H., Norman, H., & Russon, B. (2022). ’Proper Deadly’: Student memories of adult education under Indigenous control: Tranby, 1980-2000. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(2). https://doi.org/10.55146/ajie.v51i2.36