Mattie Naseri, Head of Safeguarding

Growing up as one of two Pasifika children in Mount Roskill, Mattie Naseri learned strong values at a young age. Her parents immigrated from Samoa in the 1970s, with both working multiple jobs to help provide for the family and create a space that was safe, warm, and one where the children knew they came first. “Faith is a big thing in our family,” Mattie says. “Faith is how I learned that service and giving are incredibly important values to hold. They are family values, and values I believe align me with Dilworth.” Joining Dilworth in 2021 as the Safeguarding Officer, Mattie is tasked with one of its most critical roles: helping to lead the school’s systems, processes, and the wider culture of student safety and welfare.

“Previously, I was at the YMCA, in a Learning and Development/ Safeguarding role, where I was closely involved in the work around child safety, and gaining child safety accreditation,” Mattie says. “When the Safeguarding role at Dilworth came up, I was drawn to the school and how much it gives to students, families, and the community. I really felt I could help the school with its child safety practices, and work alongside management and staff to gain official Child Wise accreditation”.

Mattie says she learned about historical abuse at Dilworth on the news. “It broke my heart. I feel so sorry for those who were so deeply affected. Now, we are striving to improve child safety practices in every area of the school.  It was really important to me to come here and work with the team to make sure all the right measures are in place to keep our students safe, and to ensure that safety is paramount.”

Achieving Child Wise accreditation (Child Wise is part of the Australian Childhood Foundation) in September 2022 was a key milestone for Mattie and the entire team at Dilworth. “It was a major piece of work and one that we’re really proud of,” Mattie says. “The Child Wise review and our journey to accreditation have given us a clear roadmap and an ongoing plan of continuous improvement. Dilworth now has systems in place to ensure students can easily speak up about any issues that matter to them, they can do this anonymously and in many ways. We have embedded a culture of safeguarding, and we have a zero tolerance towards any abuse at Dilworth. We have a parent safeguarding committee, where we gather parent and whānau input. It’s become part of our cultural DNA.”

An important part of student safety has been to involve students in the school’s decision-making, ensuring their voices are heard.  “We have done a lot of work and put systems in place to make sure we capture student voice, and therefore, we have their support because they know we are listening to their views,” Mattie says. “We consult them and we ask them about the things that are going to affect them. And we have different mechanisms for this, from student council, student committees, as well as student safeguarding ambassadors, who help us make sure messages are getting through.”

The school also uses Stymie, which is a web-based anonymous reporting platform where students can report any concerns. “It’s my job - along with other members of staff like Claudine Nathan, Director of Student Services, and Tom Murdoch, Head of Senior Campus - to respond to Stymies and to allocate staff and resources as necessary. Claudine and I meet regularly to cross-reference and make sure nothing’s been missed. Have we followed up on this one? What happened with this one? Stymie is well used and students use it confidently to speak up about their concerns.”

Mattie says it doesn’t always have to be her that deals with a Stymie. “If I can see the student has a good rapport with one staff member, I’ll talk to them and ask for their help. It’s always, always about getting the best result for the student.”

The school has a strict policy of zero tolerance for bullying. “What we do is to make sure the students know we won’t accept it, and make sure the staff know how to look for signs of bullying,” Mattie says. “That way we can address it immediately, and not allow it to escalate. What that looks like is us working with the students individually, working through a plan with them, and getting them some help if they need it. We’re incredibly fortunate as a school in that we have a whole pastoral team we can involve, including a registered psychologist. So, we have a wide array of support to offer our students.”

Mattie says there is no typical day in her role at Dilworth, and that her role in caring for the students’ safety and welfare extends beyond ensuring safeguarding systems are in place and functioning properly. “Yes, that is critical. But no two days are the same, that’s for sure. I have a lot of interaction with the students, and it often means wearing many hats at the same time.”