Bridging the educational gap for Indigenous students
There’s no two ways about it: the step from primary school to secondary school is a big one. Everything is new, different and challenging, even for boys moving from the Junior School to the Senior School at Scotch, as the Head of Middle School discusses in this edition.
But for Indigenous students at Year 7 age coming to the city for secondary schooling, that step becomes a major leap; often one that is simply too big to take. Though the students and their families have identified the importance of education in providing a pathway to Years 7 and 8 and beyond, with the opportunities come the challenges.
Coming from a remote or regional community or from a small country town, they are now embarking on an educational adventure far from home and family life, detached from their communities and their friends. Perhaps they are also carrying the burden of the hopes and expectations of those at home.
They are thrust into a vastly larger community and are faced with educational, lifestyle and social issues they could not contemplate at home.
Now a new initiative developed by dedicated individuals in the education sector, cooperating with Indigenous communities, more than 20 local schools and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, aims to bridge that educational and cultural gap..The Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS), located in Richmond, has developed a new model that will enable some of Australia’s most disadvantaged students to access the best educational opportunities in the country.
Beginning in 2016, up to 20 Indigenous boys and girls of around Year 7 age will be enrolled at MITS, enjoying a warm, home-style living environment in a magnificent old building, Lockington, situated on the MITS Richmond campus. Classes will be held in the excellent facilities offered by the neighbouring St Kevin’s College Year 9 campus, where specialist MITS teachers will provide targeted tuition in literacy and numeracy for the students, taking into account the challenges they face in transitioning to the city.
The programme is designed to equip the students for smooth transition to one of more than 20 Melbourne partner schools. And it will by no means be a case of all study and no play. The MCG and the Melbourne CBD are within walking distance, as are the Yarra River, Bridge Road and Swan Street, offering a variety of extracurricular opportunities.
MITS was conceived by two experienced educators – Liz and Rick Tudor. Liz, the chairperson of MITS, is an associate professor at the University of Melbourne with more than 10 years’ experience in Indigenous communities. Co-founder and MITS board member Rick Tudor OAM is the former headmaster of Trinity Grammar School. Both Liz and Rick are MITS board members, and other board members also have a depth of experience in Indigenous communities and independent education.
Two young Old Scotch Collegians are playing key roles in MITS, and have devoted many hours of their own time to help get the project off the ground. Ed Tudor (School Captain in 2004, pictured at left), is MITS’ executive officer and a board member, and David Heaton (‘03) is a board member.
Ed Tudor told Great Scot MITS had recently secured a federal government grant, taking total funding raised to more than $2.75 million. ‘Gaining this grant is most exciting,’ Ed said. ‘We’ve now raised all the funding we need to complete our construction programme and open MITS to its first students in February 2016.’
’MITS is being made possible through the extraordinary support of our community, and we are so grateful to our donors, corporate pro bono supporters, the federal government, our partner schools and Indigenous communities.’
As it develops, Lockington will provide its unique brand of support for Indigenous students, helping to smooth the path towards a successful secondary education.
ABOVE: MITS’ CLASSIC LOCKINGTON BUILDING, AS SEEN FROM THE VAUCLUSE, RICHMOND.