Introduction

Worawa Aboriginal College is an Aboriginal initiative, Aboriginal owned and operated and developed from the experiences of Aboriginal people themselves. Established in 1983, it is an Aboriginal organisation, governed by a majority Aboriginal Board. Worawa Aboriginal College is registered as a Specialist School by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA). The Worawa Board has worked consistently to consolidate the operations of Worawa Aboriginal College as a specialist school which caters to the specific needs of Aboriginal girls in the middle years of schooling, to enable students to attain confidence, knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to become fully contributing members of Australian society. Located in outer Melbourne, Worawa Aboriginal College provides a unique model as an alternative to mainstream approaches. Worawa is the only Australian boarding school dedicated to young Aboriginal women.

Vision Statement

Sending young Aboriginal women out into the world with confidence in who they are, where they want to be and what they can contribute to their communities and to the wider world.

Worawa Aboriginal College Statement of Intent

Worawa Aboriginal College provides a holistic education and boarding experience for young Aboriginal women in the middle years of schooling (Years 7 – 10) from communities across Australia, with emphasis upon:

  • Affirming and fostering students’ pride in their cultural identity, knowledge and respect for their heritage, languages and place as part of the nation’s diverse First Australian peoples.
  • Flourishing in a bi-cultural learning environment that provides pathways for life-long learning, participation and success in cross-cultural learning contexts.
  • Mastery of core learning skills, knowledge and understandings, with particular emphasis upon the acquisition and development of essential skills in literacy and numeracy.
  • Offering Aboriginal communities and families an education choice for their young women to participate in a mainstream education opportunity to achieve their full academic and intellectual potential.
  • Preparing and equipping young Aboriginal women with positive and optimistic attitudes and the life skills required for their futures in their home communities and the wider world.
  • Nurturing and developing students’ creativity and self-expression, talents and capabilities, as well as their confidence and motivation to strive for excellence.
  • Developing students’ personal self-confidence, respect, responsibility, resilience, rigour and commitment in all their pursuits, while also enabling and equipping them for making significant life choices.
  • Students being engaged, challenged and fulfilled through participating in Worawa’s total education program and having access to educational opportunities at the College’s partner schools and organisations.
  • Developing and maintaining good moral, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being as well as physical fitness.
  • Developing meaningful, respectful and quality relationships between students themselves and between students and staff.
  • Providing students with opportunities for personalised learning through negotiation and development of personalised learning plans relating to academic, social, cultural emotional and physical learning.

Worawa currently caters for a maximum of 76 students who come from urban, regional and remote communities throughout Australia. Historically these communities have experienced very high levels of unemployment, poor school attendance rates and high levels of individual and community trauma.

The Worawa education model responds to community needs and delivers an alternative, intensively supported pre-year 10 educational experience which is both culturally supportive and adaptable to a range of post-year 10 educational and training pathways. Being a boarding school, the holistic nature of the Worawa integrated education, culture and wellbeing approach enables the College to directly tackle government Closing the Gap priorities in education. In this way, the College contributes directly to improving Indigenous retention, engagement, literacy and numeracy rates. Aboriginal families select Worawa for the education of their young women because its holistic education program includes culture and wellbeing as well as a quality education, in a safe, supportive and respectful learning environment. The College develops pathways and transitions to post-compulsory schooling or the world of work. The Worawa model represents a highly effective, culturally responsive approach to improving outcomes in Indigenous schooling, in particular for Aboriginal girls and young women.

“Changing the marginal position in society of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people will need an approach that takes in the whole of life, starting with women of childbearing age, focusing on the care of infants and young children and proceeding through the life course…” Marmot, M., Status Syndrome – How your social standing directly affects your health and life expectancy, Bloomsbury, London &Henry Holt, New York, 2004

Specialised attention and Personalised Learning Plans address the individual needs of Worawa students and ensure each student has the opportunity to progress academically, socially, emotionally, culturally and spiritually. Students are encouraged to set academic targets using their individual learning data. The Worawa curriculum strongly emphasises foundation studies in literacy and numeracy while providing a breadth and depth of learning experiences across all key disciplines/learning areas. The focus in the curriculum upon the staples of literacy and numeracy coupled with the strong focus on cultural studies and identity is a realistic approach for Aboriginal students in preparing them for the bi-cultural life of their communities. Pathways to senior secondary schooling and further education are provided for graduating students – applicable to individual aspirations of students and their families. Worawa provides new opportunities for educational success and builds in students the confidence, skills and understandings to shape learning pathways for themselves beyond secondary school.

History

Worawa Aboriginal College purchased the property ‘Barak Park’ in 1985 through funding from the Commonwealth Government and the Worawa College Buildings and Land Fund Raising Committee. Prior to its acquisition by Worawa Aboriginal College the property was used as a school holiday camp and grazing land. The property is of particular importance to the Aboriginal community as it once formed part of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Station and is in close proximity to the Coranderrk Aboriginal Cemetery.

Coranderrk Aboriginal Station was founded in 1883 on an area of 2300 acres along Badger Creek, extending from the Yarra to Mt Riddell which was gazetted as land reserved for Aboriginal purposes. This was later extended to include a total area of more than 4000 acres. The Station prospered and the agricultural potential of the land was well demonstrated. In 1893 almost half the land was reclaimed by the government, and by 1924 orders came for its closure as an Aboriginal Station. Historically Coranderrk, including the site of Worawa Aboriginal College, has been an integral part of the Healesville community as a settlement and educational centre for Aboriginal people.