11 Dec 2023
A new engagement project will help to prepare First Nations girls in the south-west of Victoria to be confident and connected future leaders.
The Koorie Girls’ Engagement Program aims to address educational gaps among Indigenous female students, as well as to improve their connectivity to their communities and culture. Over two years, the initiative will operate in two key schools in the region, Warrnambool College and Brauer College, and run mentoring, workshops, activities, and experiences for the girls.
The project is an initiative of Beyond the Bell, which is committed to ensuring all children and young people in southwest Victoria are supported and inspired to achieve their full potential.
The Ross Trust is providing a grant of $240,000 over three years to enable the appointment of a dedicated project officer to coordinate the calendars and events of both schools. Funding will also enable workshops, activities, and camps.
Warrnambool College has approximately 75 First Nations students, while Brauer Secondary College has approximately 50 students.
Beyond the Bell Executive Officer Davina Forth said a Federal Government funded program for male Koorie students, Clontarf, had been in place for some time, but there was no equivalent for the female students.
“The community itself – including some of the girls – identified there was a need for a similar program for the 42 Indigenous girls at the two schools,” Davina says.
She said the girls themselves were concerned about the disparity, which was contributing to lower attendance and increased antisocial behaviour.
“We were able to see through data that there was a huge underrepresentation of girls finishing Year 12, and even Year 10 in some cases, as well as going on to tertiary courses,” Davina said. “The schools are doing the best they can, but now the Kalay and Kakay programs are being developed with the participating girls and will bring more resources.”
Davina said the social and emotional wellbeing team at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative was guiding the collaboration to ensure cultural safety and relevance.
“These young women are the future leaders of their communities, so we are working very closely with local cooperatives to make sure they get all the support they need,” Davina says. “We are already seeing emerging leaders in this group of girls, and both Deakin University and the University of Melbourne have offered in-kind support to bring the girls onto campus and explore opportunities.”
The Ross Trust Senior Program Manager Meghan Weekes says that in southwest Victoria, Indigenous students are 2.3 years behind in reading literacy, 2.5 years behind in mathematical literacy, and 2.75 years behind in scientific literacy.
Only 11.6% of Indigenous students complete Year 12, compared to the state average of 14.5% while.
indigenous student engagement in secondary school in the region lags 24.7% behind their non-Indigenous counterparts.
“We believe this initiative is a comprehensive approach that will target better educational outcomes, self-identity, and career pathway knowledge,” Meghan said. “Data collection and collaboration is integral to the project so the impact will be monitored and shared, including with the Department of Education.
Read more about Beyond the Bell.