The Australian Government’s new Remote School Attendance Strategy was implemented across communities at the beginning of Term 1, 2014 aimed at getting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to school and has, so far, enjoyed success.
Mornington Island Elder and School Attendance Supervisor, Uncle Leon Roughsey, has been working in conjunction with the community and School Attendance Officers in an attempt to get students to school every day to receive the best education possible.
“The teachers are very pleased that we’re doing this job,” says Leon. “Attendance lately has been very good. I’ve been talking to the principal who said there’s been a lot of change with the kids coming to school.”
Leon makes sure it’s not just about going to school, rather it’s about getting to the root of the lack of attendance. His liaison with parents is vital to school attendance.
“When we talk to the parents, we see what’s happening,” he says. “If parents are having problems, the kids stay at home,” he says.
“Sometimes the kids get sick; maybe not enough fruit. But when kids come to school, they can get food at the breakfast program. That’s been really good.”
Because Leon and his generation didn’t get the same opportunities to learn as kids do today, he urges them to make the most of it.
“We tell them that when we went to school we didn’t have the things the kids have today. There are all these opportunities; they can get jobs. We couldn’t get that in our time,” he says.
“I was talking to some of the kids today in the high school, Year 10 and Year 9, and explained that with a good education, if they attend every day, then they’ll have a door open so they don’t have to depend on other people to look after them.”
Obviously a dedicated team, they even drive a bus around the community to pick up students and talk to them to encourage them to come to school. Leon is glad that he’s making a difference in his small community in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“I’m really happy to come and do this work; being a School Attendance Officer. I like to pick up kids and talk to them, and encourage them to come to school.”