Beagle Bay students embrace Sydney exchange

A leadership and cultural exchange program between Catholic schools in Sydney and remote Western Australia is having a positive impact on students from both communities.

A group of 16 students in Years 5 to 9 at Sacred Heart School Beagle Bay visited Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook’s St Joseph Trade Skills Centre on October 20 during an exchange that focused on building student’s confidence and leadership skills.

It is the second time students from the school, about three hours north of Broome, have visited Sydney since the Deadly Youth Leaders tour was born in 2014. All Saints’ Year 10 students visited the Beagle Bay school in 2015 to gain an appreciation of aboriginal culture and community life.

Leader of Learning: Aboriginal Education for Sydney Catholic Schools’ Southern Region, Jane Bridges, said staff had met with every teacher at the Sacred Heart School to ensure the partnership was two-way.

Teachers from the region also delivered professional development during a week of face-to-face workshops at Sacred Heart, which educates students from Kindergarten to Year 10.  This included strategies to make use of NAPLAN Literacy and Numeracy data, and to promote reading in the early years of school life.

“We met with every single teacher and aboriginal worker and asked them what it was the partnership should look like,” Mrs Bridges said.  “It has really had a powerful impact on the community. When I took kids up from Liverpool many of the parents thanked us and were talking aspirationally. Many of them said: ‘We want our son or our daughter to go away and get an education’. It will enrich the community because they will come back.”

The tour included a visit to Luna Park, submarine tour at Sydney Maritime Museum, a jet boat ride on Sydney Harbour, and mass under the trees at Sacred Heart Convent in Kensington. Navigating Sydney’s busy public transport network proved a way to build resilience and confidence of the students, whose community is accessible by a gravel road that is closed when it rains.

We don’t have any Year 10 students … because they are all schooling away with the blessing of the community.

– Nicole Burrows

At All Saints’ students held yarning circles and caught up with the people they hosted in Beagle Bay last year. At Hinchinbrook they gained a taste of vocational education in automotive, fitness, and health services.

Sacred Heart School Assistant Principal, Nicole Burrows, said the exchange served a different purpose for each school. She said the tour allowed the Beagle Bay students to experience the wider world.

“When our kids come this way we do the school visits and we also do the fun stuff. We climb the Harbour Bridge, ride on jet boats, go tree climbing and to trampolines, the museums – they’re doing stuff that makes them want to explore the world more,” Mrs Burrows said.

“For the All Saints students who came up to Beagle Bay it let them see the connection to country that our students have and see what happens in a community, because quite often in the media it is portrayed as a negative thing.

“If they can actually come and experience it for themselves they see there are pretty awesome parts of it. They were at school for our NAIDOC Week cultural activities and got to go to the beach. The best bit is that they want to continue those connections that we started.”

Of the 14 Beagle Bay students who took part in the first Sydney visit, 10 had gone to study away from home.

“Of those seven have stayed away to continue their education – which over a two-year period is huge – and are consistently getting good grades,” Mrs Burrows said. “We don’t have any Year 10 students at school this year because they are all schooling away with the blessing of the community.

“When we left Sydney last time they had had an absolute ball and were ready to go home but had realised that home was always going to be there.

“This is something that has come out of it that has been pretty powerful, because so many of them didn’t want to go away for fear that things would change too much. This trip is helping them break that fear of leaving home.”

Year 6 student Malaki Monck O’ Meara said she enjoyed a Tree tops climbing adventure during the stay and observing the differences between Sydney and home.

“There’s about 112 people at Beagle Bay at last count so it’s bigger here and the school has a lot of people in it,” she said. “it’s just cooler [weather] than at home. I’ve missed fishing. We catch blue-bones, coral trout, reef fish, and all different types of fish.”

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