WARRNAMBOOL and district has one of Victoria’s best education retention rates for Koori students after a 10-year program to encourage better cultural understanding in the community.
About 95 per cent of secondary school students from Aboriginal families completed year 12 this year — a vast improvement on previous high drop-out rates.
It’s an achievement that South West Local Learning and Employment Network chief executive Toni Jenkins is proud of.
“We are starting to be seen as exemplars in the state,” she said. “There’s now a strong trend to complete year 12.
“The key has been to foster a better understanding in the greater community of local culture and heritage — this is an important thread running through Koori families.
“If young people are supported they will stay in the system. Let’s hope they will become future leaders by breaking the cycle of low achievement.”
Ms Jenkins paid credit to Koori support workers Wayne Harradine, Robbie Lowe and Steve Young for their work in schools improving understanding of Koori culture and supporting students.
One of the schools playing an active role in the program is Warrnambool College.
Teachers from the south-west’s largest government school took part in a cultural awareness program at Framlingham this week, learning about the region’s indigenous heritage and cultural legacy.
Assistant principal Adam Matheson said the school had 50 indigenous students enrolled in 2013, with 60 students expected next year. He said the program had a noticeable impact on the way students engaged in the classroom.
“Year 9 staff have participated in the Rainbow Serpent program before but this is the first time all teaching staff at Warrnambool College have participated in the cultural enrichment program,” Mr Matheson said.
“There’s a clear result from taking part. Staff better understand indigenous culture and know more about the history, especially local history relating to the Stolen Generation and the massacres that occurred.”