NASCA Students Return from TAFSIA Games (Jakarta)
In early October, an Australian delegation led by Aboriginal young people from Western Sydney returned from an international cultural...
This is the best Aboriginal Program we have had at our school by far and we’ve had plenty come through” – School Staff Member
Australia’s largest Indigenous community resides between Sydney’s Blue Mountains and Parramatta. It is a community within a community that like greater Western Sydney is in itself multicultural in terms of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations that are represented in the region. It is also unique in the sense that a large majority of this Indigenous population is under 18 and in the next decade will become a generation of young people seeking to take the next step by either furthering their post school education or going into employment. NASCA, the Greater Western Sydney Giants and Lendlease have pooled their resources to create a program designed to ensure this growing population doesn’t fall through the cracks and with the great support of local schools and the broader Aboriginal community it looks likely this young population has a bright future.
On Tuesday night a redesigned version of the Young Indigenous Pathways Program (YIPP) celebrated the achievements of 50 Aboriginal young people in years 9 and 10 from two state schools in Western Sydney. The amount that has been accomplished in just one year of the in-school program as it related to the students’ self esteem, career goals and academic achievement was evident in the pride displayed by parents, teachers and of course students.
Indigiearth traditional Aboriginal dance group opened proceedings with a bang, much to the crowd’s delight. Their connection and allegiance to elder Uncle Greg Simms was immediately evident as they proudly entered the room. Ungle Greg performed a stirring ‘Welcome to Country’ speaking of the Western Sydney region and the ongoing Aboriginal history of the area. He also spoke of his familial connection as a Gundungurra and Gadigal man of the Darug nation and the need for the next generation of Aboriginal young people to use their culture as a strength to take the opportunities ahead of them.
NASCA coordinated the evening and Amy Sarandopoulos, the YIPP Program Manager used the opportunity to talk about why the in school support and mentoring was needed. However the deficits often associated with Aboriginal affairs were not touched on at all throughout the night, rather a focus on the strengths of young Indigenous people and how their role as part of the program included using their own initiatives and assets. “It is up to each student to make the most of the program”, Amy said “While we are committed to continually presenting you with those opportunities – it is your role to grab them with both hands and get the absolute most you can out of each one”.
Leanne Townsend, NASCA’s CEO and occasional emcee of the evening stressed the underlying success of the program was building on the esteem of the young people, exposing them to real opportunities then supporting them through that next process as much as possible. “Some programs Aboriginal people are exposed to focus on the weaknesses of a person or group of people and attempt to put a band aid over that perceived problem. At NASCA we know Aboriginal young people are inherently strong and are empowered through their exposure to cultural initiatives, so encouraging them to use that is important as they move forward as students and ultimately members of Australia’s workforce.”
The students were obviously the focus of the event and their ability to celebrate their own achievements over the past year as well as talk confidently of their ambitions next year and beyond was a key part of the evening, underlying a change that everyone seemed to notice.
A parent told NASCA staff “Without your program, my daughter would not have gotten up and spoken to a room full of so many people, no way at all she would have had the confidence.”
Some parents were visually emotional as their kids collected awards highlighting their high attendance (one student missed one day of school all year), commitment, allegiance to cultural connections and the overall students of the year.
Singapore-based Lendlease Asia CEO Tony Lombardo, GWS Giants Players and other GWS and Lendlease staff engaged freely with the students who as part of the initiative they supported saw the tangible results of the YIPP Program firsthand.
The YIPP video (see above) played on the night showed the students talk proudly of their achievements and goals and their newfound appreciation of their Aboriginality.
Year 9 student Alisha assertively stated “It’s made me feel more confident this program, before I was really shy. I can see that my family is proud that I’m getting into my culture and it’s important [this program] was introduced to my school. It makes us realize who we are and what we can become”.
Due to the success of the program it will double in size next year engaging 100 students in 2017 and expanding to two new schools in the region.
YIPP Attendance Awards
Riyan Jackson Walters (98%)
Haylee Hastings (99.5%)
YIPP Leadership Award – Displaying outstanding leadership skills throughout YIPP in 2016:
YIPP Commitment Award – For Outstanding dedication to school and YIPP throughout 2016:
YIPP Cultural Connection Award – For displaying outstanding commitment to enhancing and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural knowledge and connection:
YIPP Student of the Year – Awarded in recognition of outstanding attendance, behaviour, leadership, engagement and consistent effort in all YIPP activities in 2016:
Jesse O’Connor and Carley Bates
Help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders stay strong in their culture and identity.