Ngaramura – getting back on the education path
The Ngaramura (See the Way) Project run by the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation is making a huge difference to struggling Aboriginal students in the Illawarra.
Firstly, it identifies those at risk of expulsion or suspension or who show low attendance and interest. Then the project develops individual action plans for each student and places them in a culturally appropriate environment.
From there, the students are schooled in Aboriginal culture and in mainstream academic topics.
The action plans may be short or long term and involve a range of activities and programs. These teach the students life and social skills in collaboration with participating local high schools and partnering organisations.
Critical to the success of the project is a community approach to helping the ‘one’.
Students’ families, the Department of Education, local principals, deputy principals, Aboriginal Education Officers and other Aboriginal program support staff are all involved.
From 17 referrals, 14 students are now re-engaged with school and are up to date with school work and assignments. Their attendance has increased, their academic results improved. There are reduced behavioural issues and an increased knowledge about their culture.
In the case of those who have left school, they have transitioned to further education and employment.
A year 10 male student, at risk due to non-engagement and poor attendance, said he loved the program ‘due to its one on one mentoring and cultural connections’.
A student from one of the local high schools twice suspended for swearing and fighting attends the program every Tuesday. He said he ‘likes to connect with culture at the program as he feels it is a safe space to talk and communicate’.
Students are mentored for academic support in the morning session and engage with Elders to complete cultural activities, like painting, in the afternoon.
In Term 2, students completed individual art pieces in consultation with the Elders for a new Dreaming story. This was published into a book in September 2018.
Tony Coleman, a deputy principal at Oak Flats High School said he is so pleased with the program he’d like to see all long term suspended students engaged with the Coomie project.
Coomaditchie Ngaramura demonstrates the power of grassroots organisations to address and resolve concerns in their own community.
And when it comes to their community, they are the experts.