The opportunity to engage with culture and explore career pathways, saw 120 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, from years 10, 11, and 12 in Catholic schools across the Diocese of Wollongong, join together, with Elders and Community leaders, for the launch of CEDoW's inaugural Bangawarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Students Engagement and Pathways Program at Kiama.
This initiative was developed to help students in all areas of their learning and aims to ‘close the gap’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal education outcomes and school completion rates, by encouraging cultural pride and showcasing career possibilities.
Kiama Mayor, Neil Reilly, who welcomed students and guests, including ABC Sports commentator and freelance writer, Marlee Silva; and CEDoW Director of Schools, Peter Hill, was inspired by the wisdom and knowledge of those present.
“We will leave here with a deeper understanding of the issues facing our Indigenous communities and the role we can all play in creating positive change,” he said.
The day began with a Welcome to Country, a smoking ceremony, and cultural dancing. This was followed by yarning circles, where students had the opportunity to engage with their culture, and share stories of their own educational and cultural journeys with peers, Elders, and community members.
Students were then invited to participate in a Careers expo to learn about educational and career pathways options from a number of different employers and tertiary institutions.
CEDoW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Professional Officer, Karan Taylor, said the program was created to “support, engage, and immerse secondary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in all areas of their learning and cultural journey.”
“As a Catholic organisation, we’re committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and the wider community, to provide the highest quality cultural and educational opportunities to ensure students are happy, thriving, and reaching goals,” she said.
For St John the Evangelist, Nowra student, Hunter Woods, the day was “a great way for students to meet other people, to grow as a person, and create pathways.”
Adam Bell, a student from John Therry Catholic College, Rosemeadow, was so appreciative of the experience. “Not many other schools get to do this,” he said. “We get to talk with each other and have the opportunity to express our culture.”
A Bangawarra program for years 7-9 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will be held on Thursday 31 August 2023.