Indigenous Award Winners
THE ABSA/IEBA EXCELLENCE IN INDIGENOUS BOARDING AWARD IS JOINTLY PRESENTED BY ABSA AND INDIGENOUS EDUCATION AND BOARDING AUSTRALIA.
BELOW ARE THE DETAILS OF THE AWARD WINNERS.
ST MARGARET'S ANGLICAN GIRLS' SCHOOL
First Nations Boarders form an integral part of our school community. They add cultural depth to our boarding house and are integral resources as we work towards reconciliation and reaching a greater level of understanding of our First Nations Peoples, practices, and experiences.
There are several different cultural connections that St. Margaret’s offers.
1. See My Difference See My Worth Festival
The 2022 See My Difference See My Worth Festival features an acknowledgement of country and an Indigenous dot painting workshop as part of our rotational activities. Previously, First Nations boarders have also used this festival to teach traditional dancing and games.
2. First Nations Students on Reconciliation Action Plan Committee
Our journey towards reconciliation began in 2019 when we formed the Reconciliation Action Plan Committee. This committee includes First Nations students and Old Girls as members. Their feedback is integral to the development of the plan and they have found a sense of fulfilment and ownership for being given the opportunity to be heard and contribute to the plan.
3. Gidhal and Mulu Maguydan
St Margaret’s has launched an original publication titled Gidhal: A collection of stories from our First Nations’ people, authored by the school’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The impetus for the project was to harness the enormous potential of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to share their stories with the St Margaret’s community.
The second instalment of First Nations stories – Mulu Maguydan, was released at the commencement of semester 2. The project invited First Nations students at the school to seek out a story from their Elders and share this in the form of an interview, profile, artwork, or feature article. The name Mulu Maguydan (pronounced moo-loo-moog-eye-dun) means story stone in the Jandai language of Quandamooka Country.
4. Involvement in sharing cultural practices with the Primary School
First Nations boarders have visited the primary school and spoken to younger students about their culture and taught traditional dances. This gives First Nations boarders the experience of discussing their culture to larger groups and using their voice to advocate for First Nations peoples.
5. Reconciliation Week
Our reconciliation week event includes a number of activities. The penultimate of these being the Sorry Display and Cultural Dance lessons one lunch time. All students are invited to write their name on a coloured hand and ‘plant’ it under the Indigenous flags as recognition and desire to work towards reconciliation. During this event, First Nations Boarders teach students a cultural dance, which they all perform together.
SACRED HEART COLLEGE
Almost 15 years ago Russell Smith and Brother Doug began a working relationship between the Port Augusta and Davenport Communities and Sacred Heart College. Over the years, Sacred Heart College has been committed to forging a strong, long term relationship with the Port Augusta community, which has more recently stretched to communities in the APY Lands and beyond.
The process of moving away to boarding school is not for all young Aboriginal people. The difficulties associated with transitioning away from their families and communities and having to maintain this over a long period of time is not easy. Sacred Heart College, along with their Boarding House, has established an appropriate and culturally supportive environment for their Indigenous students. For example, located at our Marcellin Campus is the Nunga Room.
This is a place where our Indigenous students feel culturally safe, have access to resources, teachers and support staff. You can see the pride and confidence on the student’s faces when they are working in the Nunga Room.
Sacred Heart College works hard to be inclusive, not just for its Indigenous students, but for all students. Our students are engaged when talking about Reconciliation, the way they listen to dialogue about the issues facing Aboriginal people in a respectful way and how they take that information on board. It is important for us as a College to continue to build on the support already in place for our Indigenous students.
MELBOURNE INDIGENOUS TRANSITION SCHOOL
Temporary Darwin Hub
Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) is a residential transition school for Indigenous students from remote and regional communities. Each year, 22 Year 7 students spend one year at MITS, then transition into scholarships at our Melbourne Partner Schools for Years 8 onwards. MITS also supports these alumni students long after they graduate from our Year 7 program, including the provision of boarding accommodation to 19 female students enrolled in Melbourne Partner Schools. COVID-19 has meant that we have had to make fundamental changes to our operations to ensure we have continued to be able to support our students' educational goals.
When the pandemic first hit Melbourne in mid-March, MITS made the early decision to send our students home to ensure their safety and the safety of their communities, particularly many Elders who would have been especially vulnerable to this virus. For the remainder of Term 1 and all of Term 2, our teachers successfully ran an online learning program, with our boarding team supporting the wellbeing and homework requirements of each students. We sourced WIFI dongles from Telstra, stationery packs from Coles and Officeworks and King & Wood Mallesons printed a large number of learning pack for our students. The level of engagement we were able to secure from our students, in spite of the challenges of remote learning, was extraordinary; each day, we had at least 70% of our students actively engaged online.
As the coronavirus situation in Melbourne deteriorated further this winter, it became clear that our students would not be able to return to face-to-face learning in Term 3 as planned. We recognised that another term (or possibly even more) of distance education would have a significant impact on our students continued learning and growth. So, MITS has decided to temporarily move our operations north to a Darwin Hub for Term 3. We have flown 15 staff, nine of their family members and our three Victorian students to Darwin. Our Victorian students (and their families back home) are excited for the opportunity to experience the richness of life and culture in the Northern Territory. All of us who travelled up have completed 14 days strict quarantine.
We've formed a terrific partnership to operate the Hub - both schooling and boarding - at the Michael Long Centre, operated by the AFL NT at Marrara Oval. All 21 of our Year 7 students have joined us at the hub - 100% retention of this cohort since the commencement of the 2020 school year. We think this is an extraordinary achievement in itself! We also have 12 alumni students living and learning from the hub, continuing their remote learning with their Melbourne Partner Schools, supported by MITS staff in-person here in Darwin. An additional 15 alumni will attend our Darwin Hub as day students (living with family members around Darwin). That's a total of 48 students supported by MITS via our temporary hub.
To move the boarding and teaching operations of an entire school in a matter of a couple of weeks has been a monumental effort from our staff. However, we knew that the alternative - continuing with remote learning for another extended period of time - was simply not an option if we were putting our students’ best interests at heart. Most importantly, the feedback from our parents and students has been uniformly positive. They appreciate our continuing commitment to their children’s learning and wellbeing. We are really proud of the care, agility and courage MITS has shown in our establishment of our temporary Darwin Hub, and cannot wait to continue to watch our students grow!
YIRAMALAY/WESLEY STUDIO SCHOOL
The vision of Yiramalay is simple: it is to bring about positive change and opportunity for both the children and families of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities who are part of the school.
It provides a unique model of learning which brings together two very different cultures and communities - one Aboriginal with 40,000 years of
history in the Fitzroy Valley of the remote outback Kimberley of Western Australia, and the other, Wesley College in Melbourne, established in
1866, and one of Australia’s oldest and most diverse coeducational independent schools.
The focus on language, culture and learning on country are fundamental principles on which the Studio School was conceived.
The Studio School provides Aboriginal Australians with a pathway to mainstream education in Years 10, 11 and 12. The education program
is immersive and residential comprising academic studies, personal development and work experience. Aboriginal students are prepared for opportunities in employment or further education.
For Wesley students, the real life experience of the bush in Australia’s remote outback teaches them how much there is to learn from Aboriginal people, their culture and their respect for land.
The Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School hosts 120 Year Ten Wesley College students each year, together with a growing number of Aboriginal students.
Currently 60 Aboriginal students are enrolled in residence at the School.
KINROSS WOLAROI SCHOOL
Kinross Wolaroi School (KWS) has a tradition of welcoming Indigenous students and their families, guiding them to make the most of the opportunities available here. At the same time, KWS recognizes the many ways Indigenous culture contributes to the dynamism of our school and enriches the KWS community.
KWS has had Indigenous students attending the school for decades, however our Indigenous Education Program started around 5 years ago. It was at this time that the school appointed its first Indigenous Students Coordinator, Mr Anthony Begg. The school has made significant progress in this time, putting greater structures and procedures in place to support the students attending the school. While there have been improvements and growth in this time, there has been equally as many challenges which have provided learning opportunities for the school and its community. One of the current strengths of the program is the staff who lead it, all of whom identify as being Indigenous themselves. KWS is fortunate to have such a passionate team that are working on growing the program and identifying opportunities to improve our approach. We are trying to provide an educational opportunity where students can do their best, enhance their sense of identity, pursue their dreams and develop the skills to walk confidently in two worlds. ‘Yanhanha bula Waa’ (Walking in two Worlds) Wiradjuri.