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‘Nalderun’ – We Are Moving Forward Together


Two adult women and twelve children stand in a room behind a microphone, all wear red t-shirts with a graphic of raised hands.
Moving forward together are the Koorie students of Mt Alexander Shire
10 May 2017

A creative and unique approach to engaging at risk kids in country Victoria has increased attendance of high school and primary school students in Castlemaine.

The Nalderun Project, was developed by three locals, Auntie Kathryn Coff, Auntie Julie McHale and Community Elder Uncle Rick Nelson who saw the need for a culturally appropriate learning module targeted to helping their mob.

Meeting several Victorian Essential Learning Standards (AusVELS), the model incorporates DjaDjaWurrung history and the learnings of Aboriginal peoples all over Australia and other indigenous cultures.

Each year a different theme is explored, using teaching methods such as ‘showing not telling’, going onto Country, a ‘hands on’ approach, working in teams, sharing and realistic celebration through ceremony.

“We challenge people to give us a topic that we cannot put an Aboriginal perspective to,” Auntie Julie said.

The project also provides fortnightly workshops at the ‘Meeting Place’ which is the old Yapeen school. The workshops include field trips on country and more in depth cultural heritage lessons.

This innovative approach to teaching, has engaged the 34 Indigenous youth currently enrolled in the program, allowing them to shine in their project work resulting in a chance to display their skills and engage in their Aboriginality.

A Koorie Bus Service, further cements school attendance.

“Attendance of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from at risk families was low, so the Koorie bus picks them up in the morning,” Auntie Kath said.

“It is also someone that they know and helps bridge the gap between home and school.”

Former teacher Auntie Julie runs a weekly Koorie Homework Centre for the students, and also provides assistance to those who are undertaking skills training or parents who need assistance to apply for employment.

The teenage boys receive extra attention through a pilot program called Men’s Business Program. Run by Auntie Kath and Uncle Rick, the boys spend time on Uncle Rick’s Jarra Country learning about their cultural identity and working through personal and family circumstances at a time in their lives when negative peer group pressure can be extremely influential.

Auntie Kath said she has noticed changes in the students since the project began including an increased sense of pride and the courage to stand up and be proud.

“They have a knowledge of their history. They recognise that it’s cool to be Koorie or Aboriginal. They feel a connection to community and have found something that they are good at,” she said.

Find out more

A good education is essential for a good future. Getting children to school, improving education outcomes and supporting families to give their children the best start in life is a major priority for the Australian Government.

The Nalderun Project receives funding directly from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as well as from the Department of Health through the Castlemaine and District Health Centre.

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