A born leader
Zane Ratcliff is proud to be a role model. The third year ACU teaching student doesn’t shy away from the responsibility and power that comes with being seen as a leader by others.
“I feel like I need to show younger people the way; it gives me a focus and it feels good,” said Zane. “It keeps me on track too. It means I need to make sure I do the right thing as I have a lot of people who look up to me.”
Growing up in Gayndah, a rural town of about 2,000 people located 250 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, Zane’s potential in the classroom and on the sporting field was spotted by his teachers who provided the mentorship he needed to excel.
It’s something he has not forgotten.
“I just hope to be like the teachers I had when I was growing up,” said Zane. “I had great teachers who I had a rapport with, and I enjoyed being in their classes – they really motivated me.”
His reputation culminated in him becoming the first Indigenous school captain at Burnett State College in Year 12.
“It was a pretty emotional moment,” Zane, a proud Wakka Wakka man, said.
“There were lots of friends and family in the younger years there watching it happen. I realised how important it was to be a good leader.”
Learning, teaching and leading
The Greek and Roman history afficionado has continued to inspire others at ACU as an ambassador and active member of the university’s Weemala Indigenous Higher Education Unit community.
And he is also keen to help high school students at Marist College in Ashgrove, where he provides in-class support and works as a tutor, to excel in their chosen paths.
“I want to make sure the kids do the best they can. Education 100 per cent leads to a better life,” said Zane.
Closer to home, Zane has also motivated both his mother Kathy, a teachers’ aide, and his younger brother Kaiden, to become teachers.
But he credits his mother and his father Kevin with being his earliest inspirations.
“I got my worth ethic from my parents. My mum is studying her teaching degree at 55, and my dad Kevin is a foreman who has always been such a hard worker.
“They’ve really inspired me to do my best.”
Connected to heritage
Dance is another way he has stayed connected with his Indigenous heritage through previous studies at Brisbane’s Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts where he learned Fusion – a mix of contemporary and Indigenous dance styles, in addition to spirit and creation dances.
Zane uses his skills to teach young people at Marist College and in Gayndah how to perform traditional dances in the lead up to special events such as NAIDOC Week.
“It’s all about that connectedness with family, the stories of creation, the animals, and the land. It gives you a great foundation and puts you in touch with your Indigenous side,” he said.
As for the future, Zane is ready to do his bit to improve teacher shortages in hard-to-staff areas once he graduates with a Bachelor of Education (Primary and Secondary) next year.
“I enjoy going to rural areas and I’d love to give back to a small community like the one I grew up in.
“I just want to set myself up for success in a community and be involved in that community.
“I’m Aboriginal, a male studying teaching, and I’m from a country town – that’s a pretty rare combination, but I’d like to see even more diversity at university.
“Going to university gives you different perspectives and awareness of other opportunities. It also means we can make sure we aren’t just taking the same approach to issues all the time as we have access to different viewpoints and ideas.”
Zane’s advice to other Indigenous students and people from diverse backgrounds thinking of studying at university is simple: “Definitely go for it!”
“University is not as scary as you might think it is. ACU has been very supportive, and Weemala is a wonderful, close community. There’s a lot of support for all students and there’s a lot of fun to be had too.”
Passionate about teaching? Explore the options at ACU.