For many Aboriginal children, the outback represents their playground. Moreover, in the Aboriginal community, children are not used to having designated supervisors, with the whole community itself active in sharing the responsibility of caring for its young.
So one can only imagine the kind of culture shock that Aboriginal children can face when transitioning to the big city life to seek out an education.
Recognising the challenges that Aboriginal children face in moving from remote locations to the city, the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, set up in 2016, has been helping students acclimatise to an unfamiliar way of life that can often be quite daunting.
Kathryn Gale, Head of School at MITS, explains the importance of creating a supportive and inclusionary environment in allowing these young students to find their identities within a new environment. “I think in the environment that we’ve created here, our boarding house being so small, is certainly very homely.
And we have a huge focus on wellbeing. So we believe that before any academic learning can take place, a student has to feel supported, they have to feel safe, they have to feel that their culture and languages are respected and recognised. “…So in terms of that focus on wellbeing, all of our staff have been trained in the Berry Street education model.
It enables our staff to act as trauma informed practitioners. We understand that many, if not all our students, come from a trauma background and so we try and ensure that we are acting appropriately to cater for their needs, and offer them opportunities for learning in a space that’s culturally and linguistically safe.”
The school, originally set up by the Tudor family, is home to 22 Indigenous students in total – 11 girls and 11 boys.
Located in the Vaucluse, Richmond, students make the short trip from the boarding house to the Richmond Football Club everyday to study a variety of subjects like maths, art, health and PE, and reading.
What’s more, the school also incorporates a unit geared towards enabling students to better adapt to the cultural melting pot that Melbourne has come to be.
“We have an inter-cultural studies subject because we want the students to understand about multicultural Melbourne. And so I suppose in terms of different parts of our curriculum that would be something that’s quite different. That’s part of building their own identities too. For example, at the moment, once a week, we go into one of the local kinders in Richmond, in small groups, and the students have been learning about the different cultural groups that the kids in the kindergartens come from,” Gale says.