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A little help growing up: mentoring the next generation

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A man stands in the shade on a sunny day, with trees behind and around him.  He has his hand on his heart and is wearing a shirt with an Aboriginal artwork print on it.
Teaching culture comes from the heart for Indigenous educator Charlie Ashby, who helps kids stay in school
27 Jun 2019

When Charlie Ashby stands in front of a class of school kids it’s easy to imagine that he was a good student who grew up to be a successful teacher, without ever putting a foot wrong.

The Education and Engagement Officer, based at the Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre at Nowra, is well known in his community for his calm and settled teaching style.

However, that wasn’t always his way.

‘I stayed in school for football, but I was wayward. I was kicked out of school in year 12,’ Mr Ashby said.

‘I had an attitude problem. The turning point for me was when I started learning about my culture. It was the only thing that helped. Culture gave me a purpose in life.’

Mr Ashby teaches a wellbeing program for Indigenous teenagers at Bomaderry High School in the coastal town of Nowra in NSW.

He uses his experiences to help high school students face their own challenges, while passing on what he has learned about culture and connection to country.

The wellbeing program encourages Indigenous students to embrace their cultural identity and maintain school attendance. Topics taught include ways to improve self-esteem, career options, finance, making positive choices and walking on country.

‘I don’t want these kids to go down the same path I did,’ he said.

‘Some of the kids were a bit wayward in terms of behaviour (at the start of the program). Some of them didn’t have an idea of what they wanted to become when they’re older. However, culture has allowed them to be comfortable enough to look at different choices.

‘What we are doing at Bomaderry High School allows the kids to feel included, to feel that they’re not alone.’

Watch our video to see Mr Ashby teaching.

Find out more

Mentor Charlie Ashby works with young people to pass on positive messages about culture. Watch our video to learn more.

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