It was a special ceremony for Indigenous students, especially females students at Narromine High School with the launch of their Girls Academy, a new program that has been supporting and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls.
On hand to unveil a plaque to mark the occasion were patrons of the organisation NSW Governor David Hurley and his wife Linda Hurley.
Governor Hurley speaking at the launch to the students, teachers, family members and local government representatives said the Girls Academy creates opportunities for everyone to play a role in their community.
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Calling for change he said we need to lift the rate of female Indigenous university graduates from 1.5 per cent and also the post-graduate figure from less than 1 per cent.
“We have a big hill to climb in bringing, our Aboriginal women in particular, into our education system and getting them to complete high school and enter into further education, whether that be University or TAFE.”
“The Girls Academy is a very important part in trying to turn those numbers around.”
“The community is investing in you. The community wants you to succeed. Like every child in this room, we want you to succeed,” he said.
Narromine High School Principal Philip Rufus said after two terms he has already seen a significant impact, and that the Girls Academy has provided their students an opportunity where they can dream to succeed.
“I can say a majority of our girls involved in the Girls Academy have met the benchmarks with increased attendance, through decreased behaviour incidences, and girls are working hard to increase their profile within community, forming relationships which are respected but are supported,” Mr Rufus said.
A recent example Mr Rufus pinpointed was the community NAIDOC day where students ran activities, danced, and helped community members and elders, demonstrating the positive connection with community.
“I was extremely proud when I looked around and and saw students acting positively and respectfully in the community,” Mr Rufus said.
He went on to thank program coordinators Karlene Middleton and Erin Payne for their support and dedication. He also thanked the Narromine Shire Council for their contribution to funding the program at the school.
“I’m extremely proud with what has been achieved in a small amount of time, and I’m proud of the growth and self respect that has been established within our girls,” Mr Rufus said.
“My wish for our girls is that you dream big, life becomes what you’re wanting it to be, and you live your life as you’ve always imagined,” he said.
The Girls Academy program is being delivered at more than 40 schools across Australia. The program aims to encourage attendance, study, graduate, build confidence, enhance health and wellbeing, plan for post-school studies and careers and strengthen cultural connection.
The program is community-driven and works within the local school system to support girls to engage in education an pursue their goals through mentoring, sport, cultural and empowerment programs.
The Girls Academy is undertaking a significant expansion aiming to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls who benefit from the program to 3500 by the end of 2019.