What's happening in Horsham?
Horsham Secondary College, Victoria
Secondary College with 1,000 students from Years 7-12. Based in a large regional centre in western central Victoria.
23 students identify as Koori.
Dare to Lead involvement
Information provided by:
Rosanne McGuire, Teacher and Managing Diversity Co-ordinator.
What is happening
In 1999, the Koori Unit and Homework Centre was established within the school. This tangible evidence of the school's commitment to its Indigenous students has been important. Koori students (and others) use it, "to get help with their work, to get follow-up, and as a place to hang out. It's a place with a sense of belonging, and a place where the Koori parents feel comfortable to come," Rosanne says. ASSPA meetings are held in this space. Darren Khan, the centre?s coordinator, runs the program during the school day and has established strong relationships with the Koori students and their parents. In addition, he liaises with teachers and outside organizations, organises cultural activities such as NAIDOC Week celebrations and conducts excursions to events such as Crocfest, job fairs and a summer camp.
In consultation with local community members, Horsham College undertook an analysis of its Koorie Program last year. There was a series of monthly Koorie Program meetings which involved a range of people from the school and the local community (LAECG). These meetings were facilitated by Andrea Cox, (DE&T, GHW) and Marjorie Pickford (KEDO). The Principal, Ian Trigg attended these meetings, indicating the level of commitment the College has to the program. They investigated matters related to the themes and goals of Dare To Lead, and then reported back to the local ASSPA committee.
An action plan was drawn up which identified four main areas:
|Cultural recognition: focusing on the need to raise awareness of Koori students, culture and issues, particularly among staff.|
|Skill development: relating to inclusive curriculum strategies and in particular local Koori studies units of work.|
|Participation: focusing on the need to encourage Koori student engagement with school and the increased involvement by parents of Koori students.|
As a result of these meetings, the school is participating in a professional development project for staff on Koori inclusive curriculum and is planning to develop units of work for local Koori Studies. In addition to workshops at staff meetings and curriculum days, representatives from the English, SOSE and Art KLAs have attended PD days at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat and at the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Halls Gap where several ex Horsham College Koori students work.
|Operation of the Koori Education Centre, particularly in terms of processes, funding and resources.|
|Several groups are represented within the local community which means consultation must be managed sensitively.|
|Maintaining funding to staff the centre (the coordinator is paid at School Support Staff rates) is an ongoing issue.|
|"There's more we'd like to be doing," Rosanne says, "but there are the obvious funding and time constraints".|
The personal touch
As has been shown again and again, building strong and positive personal relationships is a key to success. SSO Darren Khan is described as "crucial" by Rosanne McGuire. We asked him to talk about himself and his work:
"I'm the Koorie Centre Co-ordinator. I run the Koorie Unit, do lots of one-to-one work with the Koori kids, help them with their homework, provide someone they know they can always talk to. The Koorie Centre is a secure place for the Koorie kids. When I got here I'd see a lot of kids, often the Koories, sitting in corridors after being kicked out of class. I gave it some thought and said I reckoned it was better to have them going somewhere and continuing to work rather than just languishing in the corridor. We've got computers and a fridge here, and resources they can use so they don?t have to feel ashamed if they haven't got stuff at home. We try to get as much work as possible done at home. We saw a cycle where kids would have homework, not get it done at home for whatever reason, then not want to show up the next day because they were ashamed to go to class. This is a way of breaking that.
"It's all part of trying to get the retention rate up. In the 18 years before I started here we had only two Koorie kids ever make it to Year 12. Now we're starting to make some headway: in 2002 there was one in Year 12, last year there were two, this year there is one, but we also have three in Year 11 and five in Year 10. I take the kids to Job Fairs in Melbourne so they can see some future pathways available to them. It's just a matter of keeping it going. Funding is always the biggest issue."
Just as it's important to have the right positions and right programs, so it is vital to have the right people in these positions running the programs. Darren is not a Koorie, but he grew up in North Horsham where most of the local Koorie community resides. Although he left school in Year 11, he values learning and urges his students to go as far as they can. He was a local footballer of some note and coached a local junior team for 12 years. In this time he strengthened his team by inviting along Koorie kids who weren't fitting in at other clubs. He also campaigned to stamp out racism in the local league. "People around here know me, I think they respect me, and they know I won't take any shit whether that be from the kids or anyone else," he says. "You can't just walk in and do this job. The community here knows me, I grew up alongside a lot of the parents of the kids we've got here at school, and I think that's where the rapport comes from."
Aspirations for the school
"To maintain the current level of attention to Koori students and Koori issues, and where possible to enhance or improve in the areas identified in the action plan. In particular, we would like to create an environment at Horsham College where Koori students feel they belong and where they are motivated to stay at school to achieve their potential and complete their VCE."
Rosanne McGuire at email@example.com or the school on 03 5382 0499