Skip to content

Chris Sarra and the Cherbourg State School (A) 2005-14.1

13 June 2005



Chris Sarra was appointed principal of the primary school in the town of Cherbourg, three hours drive north-east of Brisbane, Queensland, in August 1998. There were no other applicants for the job. The school at Cherbourg, a small Aboriginal settlement, had been losing students and was performing badly on almost every measure. Sarra, whose mother was Aboriginal, had some ideas about how to run a school in an Aboriginal community and wanted to try them in practice. Six months into the job, the full complexity of the leadership challenge he faced was becoming apparent. Change was required in just about every aspect of the school’s operation. It was hard to know where to start, but Sarra new he had some difficult decisions to make.

This case follows a success story of leadership and reform using unorthodox but strategic solutions to solve ongoing problems. It can be used to discuss these ideas in education and in Aboriginal Australian affairs, or more broadly. Part A looks at Sarra’s career and early plans to reform the management of the Cherbourg State School.

Read more:

  • Part B explains Sarra’s approaches to tackling the major issues at the Cherbourg State School, emphasising identity and involving the community in the school’s operations.
Authors: Tim Watts
Published Date: 13 June 2005
Author Institution: Melbourne Business School, ANZSOG
Featured Content Length: 1
Content Length: 7
Product Type: Part A, Primary resources