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aspire to give to the rest of their charges.
The research project suggests that schools
should approach this commitment with
empathy and common sense.
The narratives of both staff and students
involved in Indigenous student programs
suggest several common factors as being
important in the success and wellbeing of
Indigenous students in southern schools:
• Independent schools should be
confident to continue to do business
as usual, because that business is good
• In the case of Indigenous students,
schooling provision must be
administered with heightened empathy
and with resources to match school
• Independent schools in Victoria should
foster their Indigenous students’
confident and positive self identities as
they would for all students.
• Students’ families and communities
must give assurances that support
for their children will persist despite
Without family and community support
Indigenous young people face a barbed
choice, and Victorian programs will
be little more than a narrow window
on opportunity and ultimately not
sustainable. When done in this spirit
of partnership and promise, and when
adequately resourced, Indigenous student
programs have the potential to give
Indigenous youth the resources to choose
the ‘good life’, as defined by them.
Despite potential critics and the
pervasiveness of the ‘breaking up families’
rhetoric, the research project indicates
that Indigenous programs in Victorian
secondary boarding schools can empower
Indigenous young people through the
facilitation of a significant choice between
a mainstream, high quality education and
poor educational access in their home
Indigenous student programs in Victorian
schools recognise the reality of Indigenous
educational disadvantage but choose
to focus on the possibilities for youth
development rather than the deficit
or assimilationist agendas of the past.
Conducted in partnership with Indigenous
communities they represent a new, more
positive and empowering chapter in the
history of Indigenous education policy in
Greenwald, H.P., Pearson, D., Beery, W.L .
and Cheadle, A. (2006) Youth development,
community engagement and reducing risk
behavior. The Journal of Primary Prevention,
Lamb, S. and Robinson, L. (2009) How
young people are faring. [Online] Report
for the Foundation for Young Australians.
Available at: http://www.fya.org.au/wp-content
Langton, M. and Ma Rhea, Z. (2009)
Indigenous education and the ladder to
Pearson, N. (2009) Radical hope: Education and
equality in Australia. Quarterly Essay, Issue No
35. Melbourne: Black Inc.
Schwab, R.G. (2006) Kids, skidoos and caribou:
The Junior Canadian Ranger Program as a
model for re-engaging Indigenous Australian
youth in remote areas. CAEPR Discussion
Paper No. 281. Canberra: Centre for Aboriginal
Economic Policy Research, ANU.
Students’ families and communities must give
assurances that support for their children will
persist despite prolonged absences.
[In the Northern Territory] there’s a
lack of education. Our children are
separated from other students. I
want them to mix with other people.
I’ve seen so many kids finish Year 12
without achieving like mainstream.
When they finish at school up here
they are still shy and don’t know how
to read or write properly. Remote
I think that we’re not going to be able
to solve everything in one go ... this is
a long-term business. Principal
We can do good for Indigenous kids
but we can also do good for our kids.
It’s humanising stuff. Staff member
It’s changed what I really want to do.
It’s good. I was like ‘I want to do that’
but now I’m like ‘I could do that, or
that, or that’. It’s just a bit more open.
‘Cause I never really thought about
other options. I was at [a regional
school for Indigenous students]
before, when no one’s really thinking
about options. Student
Success comes in different forms and
your expectation of what is going to
be a successful program certainly isn’t
going to be how you’re eventually to
measure it. Staff member
I would say that every child is an
individual, and as I look at every kid in
this year level, I would have the same
approach to Indigenous students.
What our outcomes for these children
are is what individually meets their
needs. Staff member
We sometimes had discussions about
allowing these kids to celebrate and
recognise their Indigenous heritage
and how can we do that ... and then
we recognised that we didn’t have to
worry about them having an identity
as an Indigenous person. They’re an
Indigenous person, they know that.
There is never an issue about them
being an Indigenous person; they
were very comfortable with who they
were and where they came from. As
a kid from Thailand was comfortable
with who they were. Staff member
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