A program that has increased Year 12 enrolments by 276 per cent and supported thousands of Indigenous girls through high school will start at Narromine in 2018.
The Girls Academy was founded in 2004 by Olympian and champion basketballer Ricky Grace, and works within the school system to drive community-led solutions aimed at reducing the barriers that prevent Indigenous girls from reaching their full potential.
Narromine High School will have up to 50 positions funded at a cost of $125,000 a year – a significant commitment from the NSW Department of Education considering it funds just 800 positions statewide.
Acting principal Philip Rufus said the program would be accessible to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, except for certain cultural activities.
“With the complexities of society today, in kids lives there’s a lot going on … even the expectations once you finish school, it’s massive,” Mr Rufus said.
“What it’s going to do for them is provide opportunities for retainment in years seven to 12 and support them … but it’s also building self-esteem, confidence and just for them being confident in themselves.”
The state government meets half of the program cost, with the other $62,500 a year coming from the school.
Earlier this month, Narromine Shire Council voted to contribute $10,000 a year for three years towards the program.
General manager Jane Redden said council’s contribution was an indication “that we’re keen to have it in our town”. She said “a very, very strong theme around youth” had emerged during the formation of council’s community strategic plan, and “we believe [Girls Academy] satisfies a lot of the community targets”.
In practical terms, the Academy will see additional staff placed at the school, with the girls involved to have input into the type of support delivered.
“Those girls will access that facility throughout the day and … if they’re looking at social skills, they’re one of the things that they could focus on,” Mr Rufus said, adding he welcomed the council’s investment.
“We want community to be part of our school … for this to be successful the whole process is around connections and building connections,” he said.
“Sometimes a mentor is what some of these girls need … it’s about developing the skills to be able function in society as a valued member.”