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Taking control of your future with help from the AFL

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Three women and one man wearing AFL polo shirts stand in front of a large sign which says AFL NSW/ACT.
Team members from left: Sharna Crofts, Candice Bell, Merinda Beale and Matthew Keevil
30 Apr 2018

The 2018 AFL season is underway spurring along the next generation of players and fans.

In the suburbs of Western Sydney, the AFL are offering pathways of a different kind, bringing a quiet yet significant change in the lives of local youth.

The AFL NSW/ACT Western Sydney Indigenous Academies began in 2007 as an initiative to improve Aboriginal student engagement and enhance community relationships between students, schools, parents and the broader Aboriginal community.

A far cry from teaching the teenagers to play footy, the main aims of the AFL led program are to increase school attendance rates, increase the number of Year 12 graduates and transition the students into full time study or work.

‘The Indigenous Academies are a program to support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students to take control of their future,’ said Manager, Candice Bell.

‘We have programs that are focused on providing in-school and after-school support. We deliver mentoring programs and interactive programs whether they are sport, education, well-being or culture and identity based.’

But it’s not all about sport.  Each week students from Years 7-12 undertake in-school education sessions on health and wellbeing, managing healthy lifestyles, knowing the effects of substance abuse, understanding the impacts of mental health and workshops on leadership and creating life values

All sessions are also complimented by AFL staff providing in-class support and tutoring.

Plumpton High School student Sharna Crofts joined the program in Year 7. After completing Year 12 in 2016, Sharna commenced as a trainee within the AFL Indigenous Academies team.

‘The AFL Indigenous Academies program made a substantial change in many students I went to school with and across the other schools in the program,’ Sharna said.

‘Our school attendance was always high as we knew if we didn’t go to school we would risk not being able to attend Indigenous Academies sessions, but we also saw the benefits personally that we gained from being involved.’

The program employs 100% local Indigenous staff including a Local Elder. It is currently working with 212 students (exceeding the target by 28%) in 7 schools across Western Sydney, from Campbelltown to Rooty Hill.

In 2016 Rooty Hill High School, had 8 students who had been involved with the Indigenous Academies, complete their HSC. This was the most successful outcome for Indigenous students in the school’s history.

At the end of 2017, 41 of 42 student in Years 10 and 12 completed the year. The 1 student who left school went into and maintained full-time employment.

The Sarah Redfern High Class of 2017 saw 10 Academy students complete Year 12, with 25 students graduating across the seven schools – another outstanding result.

The Indigenous Academies are not only empowering the next generation through education, but also providing a welcoming environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to understand who they are.

Find out more

The Australian Government supports the AFL Western Sydney Academies through the Children and Schooling Programme. This program supports activities which nurture and educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, youth and adults to improve pathways to prosperity and wellbeing.

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