Bridg­ing the gap with un­der­stand­ing

Wanneroo Times - - Street Watch -

A NORTH­ERN sub­urbs school is help­ing to bridge the gap be­tween indige­nous and non-indige­nous Aus­tralians.

St Stephen’s School Dun­craig and Carramar signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in 2015 with Pur­nu­l­ulu and Yiy­ili Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­nity schools in the Kim­ber­ley.

This has re­sulted in re­cip­ro­cal learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for staff, dig­i­tal learn­ing sup­port from the Perth school and stu­dent ser­vice tours, where St Stephen’s stu­dents spend time at the schools do­ing ev­ery­thing from main­te­nance jobs to help­ing in the class­room.

Global pro­grams direc­tor Mark Field­ing said the school was “com­mit­ted to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in a mean­ing­ful and en­gag­ing way, not to­kenis­tic”.

“We want to build a longterm re­la­tion­ship and get­ting kids to­gether in a mean­ing­ful way is the best way to build em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing,” he said.

“It gives them a dif­fer­ent view of the world that I be­lieve is far more ma­ture and more cen­tred.

“It’s just a priv­i­lege see­ing Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple liv­ing on their land and do­ing it well.

“We can’t re­pro­duce this in­side our schools.”

Yiy­ili prin­ci­pal Alex Mount­ford said the part­ner­ship was ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for her stu­dents and teach­ers.

“Work­ing in a re­mote lo­ca­tion can be­come a bit in­su­lar, so I think mak­ing net­works out­side Yiy­ili is re­ally ben­e­fi­cial,” she said.

“Our kids re­ally en­joy show­ing kids from the out­side their coun­try and they feel a lot of pride in be­ing able to share that knowl­edge with them.”

Ms Mount­ford said the longer she spent at the school, the more sim­i­lar­i­ties she saw be­tween both com­mu­ni­ties.

“Every­one wants their child to be healthy and strong,” she said.

“Some­times cul­tural back­ground means you go about that in dif­fer­ent ways, but there’s a lot we have in com­mon, so per­haps when there’s no op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­ter­act those bar­ri­ers seem big­ger than they re­ally are.”

Main pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au

Yiy­ili prin­ci­pal Alex Mount­ford with St Stephen’s global pro­grams direc­tor Mark Field­ing. d471685

Below: Yiy­ili and St Stephen’s stu­dents play to­gether.

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