Getting a good primary and secondary education these days can be really difficult. Students are under immense pressure to do well from the outset, teachers are flat out stretching resources, and its sometimes difficult for parents and caregivers to know how to best help their child achieve in the classroom.
Fortunately there’s a way to get around this, thanks to the Commonwealth Government’s Aboriginal Student Support & Parent Awareness (ASSPA) program. ASSPA is designed to improve educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in preschool, primary and high school, and to increase parents’ participation in their children’s education.
Put simply, ASSPA brings the parents of Indigenous schoolchildren together with teachers to ensure that these students get the best out of their school days. Once an ASSPA committee is established, funding is available for a wide variety of activities, programs and equipment to raise participation in, and attendance at, school by Indigenous young people. These include the purchase of special equipment and teaching resources, and funding for educational and sporting excursions, nutrition and health education programs. ASSPA committees can even provide a School Award System for Indigenous students who have great attendances and who promote and share Indigenous culture within their schools.
One school with a thriving ASSPA committee is Queanbeyan Public School, located on Ngunawal land in the southern tablelands of New South Wales. Covering kindergarten to grade six, Queanbeyan Public School has around 40 Aboriginal students enrolled and can boast a full-time Indigenous education worker, who assists in organising parents of Indigenous students to come into the school and participate in their local ASSPA committee.
“Carey Brandy, our Indigenous education worker came on board this year and she’s made a huge difference!” exclaims deputy principal Kym Hawes. “She’s very creative, has great energy and is a real networker. Among other treats we’ve had visits to the Australian Institute of Sport to meet and talk with elite athletes. The kids were inspired by the words of advice on goal setting and life skills from Patrick Johnson. Without the support of the ASSPA funding, these special events would not be possible.”
Kym reports that Carey also likes to draw upon expertise in the local community when it comes to helping the kids learn and getting them motivated. One popular visitor is community Elder Ethel Baxter, while another, Aboriginal artist Duncan Smith, has brought classrooms alive with song and brick walls awash with colourful murals.
“During Reconciliation Week, Duncan and some of the boys made around 50 didgeridoos, which he then taught them how to play,” says Kym. “He also organised the painting of a big mural based on the goanna totem, which all the kids decorated with colourful handprints. We believe all these wonderful things may not have eventuated without the assistance of the ASSPA committee and ASSPA funding”
Carey’s special skill is in welcoming new children to the school and making them feel right at home.
“We had quite a large number of Kooris starting in kindergarten this year and she was there to welcome them, help them with their uniforms and make sure they knew what to do and where to go.”
Carey is a welcome addition to any classroom in the school, such is her popularity among the children.
“She’s very likeable and everyone knows her,” says Kym. “If a class is studying Aboriginal education, Carey will work closely with the teacher to provide rich teaching and learning opportunities. It’s invaluable to have that kind of authenticity in the classroom. She also has a great interest in improving literacy and numeracy among Aboriginal students.”
Having a full-time Indigenous education worker is just one way that Queanbeyan Public School’s ASSPA committee is improving opportunities for its Aboriginal students. Another is parent awareness.
“There’s a large emphasis on partnerships this year – between parent and student, and student and school,” says Kym. “We’re encouraging parents to really step forward and be part of our community. We want them to be more aware and to take a more active role in the day-to-day happenings of the school.”
Thanks to ASSPA funding in schools, some great educational programs and cultural awareness activities are happening out there. So make sure you students get to have a say in how you feel your school’s ASSPA funding can support you in your education.