09 November 2016

It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you want Part 1

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First you go to school, then you go to work. They are two major components of most people’s life, yet very separate from each other. If you don’t have the right education, you can’t get the job. It’s as easy as that.

Or is it?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are worse off than non-Aboriginal. Only 21 per cent of Australia’s Aboriginal population (aged 15-64) has finished Year 12, an often crucial component to be able to enter employment.

It is also estimated that 63 per cent of Aboriginal people feel that lack of adequate training and qualifications are a barrier to entering the workforce, and only 47 per cent believe they have a good understanding of the rules of Australian workplaces.

So what if you suddenly hit your adult years and you don’t have the qualifications to gain employment, is that it? Is everything over and too late?

The answer is no. There are people and organisations that choose to bend the rules, who choose to make what seems impossible possible.

One of them is Chris Harvey, CEO of Nyangatjatjara College, which is close to Uluru. The school is a non-government secondary school that was set up by the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation and opened in 1997, on the initiative of senior community members who were fed up with seeing their grandchildren being taken away to boarding schools, as a result of there not being any nearby schools around.

Though Chris originally was sent to the school to close it down, he saw its potential.

The school hadn’t been running very well and there were many people in the same room, both government officials and the local aboriginal population, trying to decide its future. But the problem was that no one could understand each other. There was in fact not so much that was wrong with the school, it was just a lot of miscommunication.

Chris detected this issue and made sure there were interpreters present in the room, and as a result the school was saved and improved further in its delivery to its students.

Nyangatjatjara College is now a great example which engages not only its students, but the surrounding communities. Local businesses are working together with the school to provide the students with work opportunities, and the result has so far been a sustainable pathway into the workforce. The college encourages students to think about their “after school life” early, and create an integration between education and work early on.

The results have been fantastic. Not only have Chris and his team managed to engage their students, but whole communities, including business and families are engaged.

The statistics for Aboriginal kids finishing school and moving onto the workforce are shockingly bad. Nyangatjatjara College is a role model that many have a lot to learn from.

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.


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