Term 4 newsletter now available for download.
Worawa Aboriginal College is unique as the sole Victorian Aboriginal school and the only Australian boarding school specifically catering for Aboriginal girls.
Much has been described about the intergenerational burden of trauma for Aboriginal people and a number of therapies and approaches are known to develop people’s strengths to address these issues. Surprisingly little material exists about implementation of these strengths based approaches with Aboriginal people (AIHW, 2014). Here we outline the approach that Worawa Aboriginal College has taken to strengthen wellbeing with young Aboriginal women.
Worawa is a unique educational institution in that it provides mainstream education in a culturally supportive environment, which delivers to its students a level of self-esteem and confidence for the future. Students
are encouraged to develop academically, culturally and socially to their full potential. Established in 1983 in response to the difficulties faced by Aboriginal students in the mainstream education system, Worawa College is registered as a Specialist School catering for Aboriginal young women in Years 7-10. As a transition school, Worawa places emphasis on building the necessary ability, skills and confidence to transition into mainstream schooling at Years 11 and 12, and further, into higher education and meaningful work.
The young women who present at Worawa come from urban, regional and remote Aboriginal communities across the country. All have experienced difficult circumstantial backgrounds, typical of the low socio economic status of Aboriginal people in Australia,
and many have experienced levels of abuse, violence and neglect which have compromised their ability to independently seek out opportunities and grow the self-reliance and self-esteem needed for full emotional, social and physical development. The specialist nature of Worawa’s operations lie in its integrated model which combines intensive health and well-being programs with strong formal education principles and cultural activities led by Aboriginal Elders, focussing on Aboriginal values and pride in Aboriginal heritage.
The core business of Worawa is education however it must be recognised that the ability of students to engage in education is seriously impeded by poor health and psychosocial issues. Addressing student health and wellbeing gives students an improved ability to focus on their education. In short the provision of services available to students at Worawa contributes to better educational outcomes. It is in this context that the Worawa education model supports young women with intensive programs addressing their complex needs, providing on-site specialist care and daily routines integrating education, wellbeing and pride in culture. This physical and mental health focus, combined with sound formal education principles is integral to the success of the College in retaining and engaging ‘at risk’ young women.
The residential program provides a safe and secure ‘home’ environment as students deal with the complicated issues experienced by all young women in the crucial teenage years, and which can be especially acute in Aboriginal girls as they struggle to overcome early negative experiences and maintain connection to their Aboriginal heritage, while making a place for themselves in the mainstream world of higher education and work. The Worawa model builds trust and confidence and provides a bridge towards further education and workplace opportunities.
Worawa has a comprehensive approach to students’ physical, emotional and mental health care. Assessment, management and treatment strategies are specifically targeted to individual student needs. The College has forged partnerships with a range of organisations to deliver support services to students to enable them to focus on education.
As a result of the College’s holistic approach Worawa staff has observed a number of changes for the young Aboriginal women attending the College, which includes improved:
- ability to self manage and soothe emotions, such as, sulking, anxiety, grief, anger or outbursts
- appreciation of boundaries and routine
- physical and emotional health
- self esteem
- pride in personal care
- social skills
- literacy and reading
- leadership skills
- happiness and hope
- and mindfulness about health needs
On our Presentation Day we will acknowledge and reward the achievement of our students and we extend an invitation to you to join with us in this celebration.
- Smoking Ceremony
- Student Dance Performance
- Students’ musical presentation
- Keynote address by Dr Anita Heiss, bestselling author
- Student Awards Aboriginal Art Exhibition ‘Sharing Our Stories’ – a selling exhibition of student and community art
Presentation Day Key Note Speaker – Dr Anita Heiss
Dr Anita Heiss is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel articles. She is the bestselling author of Not Meeting Mr Right and Avoiding Mr Right, both published by Bantam Australia. Anita has won four Deadly Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Literature, for her novels including Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming and for the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature.
She is a regular guest at writers’ festivals and travels internationally performing her work and lecturing on Indigenous literature. Anita is an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales. Anita is an Adjunct Professor at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS, a role model for the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy and an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. Anita’s latest novel is Tiddas (Simon & Schuster).
Event Details & RSVP
The Worawa version of a Debutante Ball may, at first glance look like any other. However, there are many essential differences. Our students spend time living together and sharing deeply about what it is to be a young Aboriginal women in today’s Australia.
From considering their futures, to discussing their past – Worawa students prepare quite holistically for the culminating event, the Debutante Ball. That is not to say that they don’t enjoy the dance and deportment lessons in preparation for the event itself.
The girls had a great time learning to dance and enjoying meeting new friends. We thank our wonderful partners, Mount Evelyn Christian School and Melbourne Grammar School for accompanying our students for this event. It was clear that the boys also enjoyed themselves and looked every bit the accomplished partners to the beautiful Debutantes.
The event was generously and graciously sponsored by the Yarra Valley Lodge. The venue was tastefully dressed in black and silver; tables decked with silvery gum leaves and tea-lights.
The girls were presented to the esteemed Elders, who encouraged them with their presence and words.
The audience were skillfully entertained by traditional dancers and contemporary dancers, Majikhony Honey. Worawa students from Elcho Island performed the beautifully expressive traditional dance ‘North Wind’. Our compere for the evening was the well-known, Leila Gurruwiwi.
Two of the Debutantes, Andrea Farrow and Alliyanna Tipiloura, spoke on behalf of their friends about their interesting and successful journeys at Worawa and about the future dreams. Our Executive Director responded to the evening, encouraging the girls to strive to make their dreams a reality and confirming the importance of our partners.
Debutante Dreaming is not the end of a program, or even the beginning of a new life. It is the recognition of our student’s effort, readiness and intention to live powerful, positive lives. Here are the speeches of our students.
An Indigenous Education Symposium Keynotes by Leading International First Nations Educators. Yapaneyepuk is an interactive, two-day program of keynote presentations and panel discussions followed by an optional day of innovative professional learning site visits to local icons.
This gathering in Melbourne, Australia will contribute to new partnerships and improved outcomes whilst showcasing the importance of the connection between culture, wellbeing, social and economic wellbeing. These connections will be explored with the experience of a global group of First Nations educators through the lens of key Aboriginal values.
At Worawa, Aboriginal art, dance, song, language and story-telling give expression to Aboriginal identity and are embedded in the curriculum. Culture is central and the uniqueness of each girl is fostered as she explores her own ideas and identity through the arts. The Worawa Art Studio is a vibrant centre where students are inspired by music and produce stunning work that relates to their individual experience and Clan Dreaming. Exhibitions of student art show a fusion of contemporary and traditional styles and narratives.
An exhibition of Worawa student art work will be held in June at the Aboriginal Art Gallery; Jufferstraat 98 3011 XM Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Recently, journalist Andi Yu wrote an article for The Age centred around The Sapphires and our Executive Director Lois Peeler. It’s a great story – a reflexion so far on an extraordinary and inspiring life. If you are interested to learn more about Aunty Lois please click here.