Bendigo Senior Secondary College, VictoriaThe Dance Rehearsal
- A government school for students in Years 11 to 12 located in regional Victoria.
- There are 16 Indigenous students from a total of 1787 students.
Programs focus on encouraging Koori students to feel welcome, encouraged and valued, and engaging the wider community in cultural awareness and appreciation.
What's going on:
Less than two years ago there was no formal recognition of Koori students in the life of Bendigo Senior Secondary College, with no organised or documented approach to Aboriginal education. Assistance to Koori students at one of Victoria's largest schools was ad hoc rather than systematic. There was little connection between the school and the local Aboriginal community.
Now the school has won one of the High Achievement Awards at the inaugural Excellence in Leadership in Indigenous Education awards. "We have been starting from scratch in trying to build an awareness of Aboriginal education and Indigenous issues," curriculum coordinator Michael Slessar says. "We've really only been working on this for about 18 months, but winning this award strengthens what we are doing, gives it credibility and recognition, and indicates that it is regarded as a valid and serious initiative with positive outcomes."
As happens so often, the school's determination to address these issues was driven by one passionate person: Lucy Mow, a new staff member with a particular interest in Aboriginal education. "She was especially instrumental. Lucy had the view that the needs and requirements of our Koori students were not being fully met. Part of addressing that was establishing the role as Koori Coordinator. The school had had very little contact with members of the Aboriginal community in the local area, but creating and maintaining that contact was a key part of the initiative.
"She instituted the program and ensured it had policy recognition. It simply hadn't existed as an initiative in this school before. Now that recognition is included in the college charter.
With the amendments concerning our Aboriginal education strategy locked in to the charter now, it means it is enshrined in college life
"There has been a flow-on effect. Our traditional feeder schools in the area have become more aware of their Koori students and are becoming attentive to transition issues. We have given greater recognition to Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week, and our guest speaker program has received some coverage in the local press. There are also parent functions and transition seminars.
"We don't have a lot of Koori students, but we have created a basis where the needs of those students we do have can be met. It is important to note that there are ongoing issues that need work, and we have to continue to be responsive to this. But we have made a start," Mr Slessar says
Ongoing consultation with both the local Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group and school-based committees provided guidance through the reforms. Importantly, talk was translated into action.
Chair of the local AECG Anne Conway was invited to speak at the school's annual Anzac Day ceremony. A Koori-specific space on the College grounds was created. Data is being collected to monitor the impact of these reforms on retention rates. Although it is still early days, initial indications are positive.
Contact: Graham Bastian, Principal or Michael Slessar, Curriculum Coordinator 03 5443 1222