Students experience growth in culture and opportunity

Indigenous Year 8 students from Sydney Catholic schools accessed tips for wellbeing and study success during a leadership event hosted by Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood on May 6.

The Growing in Culture program included sessions for a group of 44 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on positive mental health and wellbeing, and early careers advice including School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeship options at Sydney Catholic Schools’ four Trade Training Centres. The students hail from Kamillaroi, Darug, Wiradjuri and other tribes.

Year 11 student ambassadors from schools including Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton and Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook spoke about their future study plans, connection to their Indigenous heritage and the advice they would give their Year 8 selves during a question and answer session. All said they would remind themselves to take homework seriously.

“I think what would help is to after each day, start writing study notes for yourself and start early because there’s so much content,” said Georgia Grove, a Year 11 student at Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook.  “My advice would be to pay attention in Maths because if you don’t you’re going to have to play catch up in Year 11 and it’s not easy.”

Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College student Cooper Alderton has taken the advice he would give to his Year 8 self by electing to study Carpentry at the College. “If you want to do something you should go out and do it, not wait for it to come,” he said.

You start to become a family with the people you know inside of the culture.

– Jack Morgan-Jones

School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeship (SBAT) co-ordinator at Southern Cross Alan McPherson said about 40 per cent of current students are completing an SBAT.

“All of the students who are here have come here by choice to do a vocational pathway,” he said. “When you tell employers that, they get pretty interested. About 80 per cent of the time students transfer into full-time work post school. Virtually anywhere there is an apprenticeship or traineeship full-time, there is a school-based option.”

The current focus on Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) also appeared in a workshop which asked students to consider the place Mathematics had in many careers, including less obvious ones such as guitar making. Students were asked to match cards with mathematical skills to posters of jobs in a group challenge.

“The reality is many, many careers require Maths,” said Cathy Sip, Leader of Learning – Vocational Education for southern region Sydney Catholic schools. “We’ve all heard about the hidden sugar in foods, but what about the hidden maths in careers?

“Maths is essential for careers you may not have thought of before including hairdressing, plumbing, commercial cookery, marine science – the list goes on.”

The Year 8 students were also told that “now counts” when it comes to Mathematics study, and that they should try to do well in the subject so they leave school with more study and career options.

The day ended with students learning an Indigenous dance often performed by Sydney Catholic Schools’ Indigenous dance ensemble Goodjarga.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Kensington Year 8 student Tayler Lyons, 13, has been part of the program since 2011. The Waradjuri tribe member said morning sessions of the leadership day focused on wellbeing.

“They talked to us about always having someone to talk to and had us write down people within our family and friends that we could talk to if anything was wrong,” she said.

“It was quite interesting knowing that Maths is in other jobs I didn’t think about. Hairdressing really surprised me. I’ve been to a few Goodjarga workshops with CaSPA. I’ve been dancing with them since Year 3 and they’ve always been great.”

Student ambassadors Nick Hanshaw and Jack Morgan-Jones from Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton also shared with students what their culture meant to them.

“It means standing up for what you think is right,” Nick said. “If people put you down  don’t worry about it. Keep your head up.”

Jack said he found out he was Aboriginal as a Year 6 student. “Once I got to embrace the culture more, I found out there are a lot of great people within it. You start to become a family with the people you know inside of the culture.”

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