A project to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to consider a wide range of careers and pursue their goals uses a bespoke approach to create buzz.
In a classroom at Northlakes High School on the NSW Central Coast earlier this year, a dozen Year 9 Aboriginal students logged on for a digital GOALS program adapted for First Nations students. Meanwhile, their mentors at nbn – comprising a mix of volunteers from First Nations and other backgrounds – were being briefed online by a local Aboriginal community leader.
A few minutes later, when the two groups came together, the mentors introduced themselves by naming the Aboriginal land where they were joining from. The first exercise was a ‘famous faces’ quiz featuring First Nations role models such as tennis star Ash Barty and Olympian Patty Mills. All the music used throughout the session was by First Nations artists.
So started ABCN’s pilot GOALS adapted for First Nations students, designed to support them to pursue their goals and complete high school. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are less likely to finish Year 12 by the age of 19, with 42% not completing high school compared with 17% of non-Indigenous young people.*
And yet, we know how much potential these young people have – like the proud young Aboriginal woman who described herself to us as a secondary student who is completing her education while being employed as a casual worker. ‘I am a determined and motivated student who sets out to be the first in my family to attend university. I am a student who gives more than is asked.’
ABCN’s consultation with the NSW Department of Education, Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships, and specialist educators of First Nations students revealed there was a huge opportunity for ABCN mentors to help the students understand the link between school and the working world, helping to build their career aspirations.
Our aim is to support such students to feel hopeful about their future. One great example was this comment from a student after completing the Northlakes pilot: ‘I wish to pursue a career in art, and my confidence to do so has increased throughout the program.’
Community Elder Representatives, Head Teachers from Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centres, and Aboriginal Education Officers were consulted and engaged in supporting students during the sessions. The objective is to reach about 80 students this year, and ABCN is currently seeking funding for a grant proposal to scale up our programs for First Nations students next year.
Schools involved include Northlakes, Mount Austin and Ballina Coast. Mentors involved are coming from the likes of nbn, Stockland, Accenture and PwC. While lockdown in regional NSW has caused the postponement of many digital programs until term 4, we are working on converting some school-based programs to home-based delivery.
The programs run so far are already making a difference, according to Andree Bellamy, Head Teacher Aboriginal Transition and Engagement at Mount Austin High School, who said after a pilot there: ‘Students really benefit from positive adult interactions. I could see their engagement each week, and during the breakout sessions, the room was buzzing with conversation. This experience will resonate with the students well beyond the program.’
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