Girl Power makes a dif­fer­ence

Indige­nous girls and women are tak­ing on some of Aus­tralia’s big­gest chal­lenges and win­ning.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CASE STUDY: TIWI COLLEGE - LIONEL CRA­NEN­BURGH

“DE­VELOP a girl and change the com­mu­nity”.

This is the Girls Academy Pro­gram mis­sion that uses com­mu­nity-led so­lu­tions to tackle the ‘Big Four’ of in­creas­ing school at­ten­dance, raising aca­demic achieve­ment, im­prov­ing grad­u­a­tion rates, and post-school tran­si­tion­ing.

The Girls Academy Pro­gram, founded in

2004 by Olympian and cham­pion bas­ket­ball player Ricky Grace, boasts 16 cen­tres, with

12 more com­menc­ing this year at 34 schools in Aus­tralia with 2500 girls.

Fe­male stu­dents have chalked up im­pres­sive records with grad­u­a­tion rates up by 79 per cent from 2010, at­ten­dance in­creas­ing by 11 per cent in par­tic­i­pat­ing schools with 79 per­cent hav­ing post school plans and Year 12 en­rol­ments up by 276 per cent in a five year pe­riod.

Indige­nous women also act as role mod­els and men­tors, to­talling 79 per cent of school based pro­gram man­agers and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers in WA schools, and 40 per cent of re­gional man­agers.

The Girls Academy Pro­gram body Role Mod­els and Lead­ers Aus­tralia said that in ev­ery so­cial mea­sure, Aus­tralian Indige­nous girls trail their non-indige­nous peers in health, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, earn­ing ca­pac­ity and life span.

Dr Phil Paioff, re­gional man­ager for WA, worked with pro­gram man­agers and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers to em­power and mo­ti­vate Indige­nous girls to break the cy­cle of poverty, drugs and al­co­hol.

Em­pow­er­ment and re­silience tools used to achieve change are in­spi­ra­tional Indige­nous women, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, ca­reer path­ways, lead­er­ship, team­work and com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees.

“Se­nior girls are en­cour­aged to do Cer­tifi­cate II up to IV and the Acad­e­mies work with Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Train­ing Co­or­di­na­tors in school to set up struc­tured work place­ments,” Dr Paioff said.

“Some girls now work as De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cers in our Acad­e­mies,”

Lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties and high ex­pec­ta­tions were part of Girls Acad­e­mies through work on stu­dent lead­er­ship com­mit­tees, pub­lic speaking, In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day 2017, or­gan­is­ing award nights and other pro­grams us­ing uni­ver­si­ties, banks and cor­po­rate bod­ies.

“There is an ex­pec­ta­tion that the girls will take on re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and men­tor­ing so that young Abo­rig­i­nal women will be the fu­ture lead­ers of their com­mu­ni­ties,” Dr Paioff said.

Com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory pan­els formed an im­por­tant part of all Girls Acad­e­mies, mon­i­tor­ing at­ten­dance rates, qual­ity of ser­vice, success sto­ries, and key ini­tia­tives with a fo­cus on con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment.

Mt Mag­net Dis­trict High School Badi­maya Jurdu Dance Group worked with multi-tal­ented Indige­nous trainer Karla Hart, who is 2015 win­ner Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress WA Per­form­ing Arts, a doc­u­men­tary writer for NITV and Screen­west, and man­ager and per­former with the women’s Noon­gar dance group Kwar­bah Djookian.

Prin­ci­pal Liz Tuckey and artist-in-res­i­dence Karla Hart worked on build­ing self-es­teem for a per­for­mance at the Mt Mag­net Recre­ation Cen­tre, where stu­dents re­fined a per­for­mance un­der­pinned by the theme of Stolen Gen­er­a­tions show­ing skills in chore­og­ra­phy, cos­tume de­sign and orig­i­nal­ity by per­form­ing at the Awe­some Arts Fes­ti­val in town.

Ms Hart and Dr Paioff, sup­ported by cor­po­rate spon­sor IGO, toured Perth to give per­for­mances for lo­cal schools that Dr Paioff de­scribed as “quite phe­nom­e­nal”.

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Mt Mag­net Dis­trict High School showed how stu­dents went on to win a re­gional fi­nal of the YOH-FEST Per­form­ing Arts Fes­ti­val, com­peted in the Perth fi­nal, and won three cer­tifi­cates of ex­cel­lence.

Chal­lis Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Lee Musumeci was recog­nised as be­ing among

100 Most In­flu­en­tial West Aus­tralians in

2015 for her con­tri­bu­tions in ed­u­ca­tion. She was cred­ited with in­spir­ing 21 Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment Early Child­hood Cen­tres in WA, pro­vid­ing Parenting Pro­grams mod­elled on her school, which catered for chil­dren from eight weeks to three years old.

As part of the pro­gram, par­ents were paid a visit by the school af­ter a few weeks post birth for advice and a range of ser­vices that in­cluded speech ther­apy, phys­io­ther­apy, coun­selling, and early year pro­grams.

Vi­tal health ser­vices were pro­vided im­me­di­ately as the school had a part­ner­ship with fi­nal year health sci­ence stu­dents at Curtin Univer­sity.

“It has had a pro­found ef­fect on chil­dren’s achieve­ment lev­els and par­ents in our groups bond to­gether,” Ms Musumeci said.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 news re­port, the parenting pro­gram at Chal­lis Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre was recog­nised as a fac­tor in a mas­sive turn­around; up to 95 per cent of chil­dren that had early in­ter­ven­tion out-per­formed those that had no ex­po­sure to the pro­gram.

Mr Paioff said that Indige­nous and non-indige­nous par­ents de­vel­oped parenting skills work­ing with ex­perts and con­nected closely to their schools.

The success of other cen­tres in WA’S north-west shows how girl and par­ent power are two faces of the same coin.

Dr Phil Paioff.

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