Inspiring Indigenous children to realise their full potential in school and beyond
Cathy Freeman Foundation was established in 2007 to close the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Since then, it has developed an effective and proven community-based model of educational support for remote Indigenous communities. The model comprises five interrelated programs which reach children aged from 3 years to 17 year olds, commencing with early learning and moving through to the final day of Year 12.
In July 2014, The John Villiers Trust made a grant of $180,000 over four years to Cathy Freeman Foundation to introduce its Starting Block and Horizons programs in the community of Woorabinda in Central Queensland, an Indigenous community situated on the traditional lands of Wadja Wajda and Gungulu Aboriginal people.
The Cathy Freeman Foundation programs help broaden horizons and inspire Indigenous students to experience their full potential in school, and beyond. The Foundation walks the journey of a child’s education from Pre-Prep through to Year 12, delivering programs designed to improve school attendance, behaviour and literacy. Community partnerships are core to the work of the Cathy Freeman Foundation. The support from the local community and school leadership is what enables the Foundation to deliver programs that make a difference.
Following eight months of community consultation and partnership development, the Starting Block Program was introduced in every classroom in Wadja Wadja High School and Woorabinda State School in October 2014. The program encourages students to achieve at school and strive for personal goals by recognising regular attendance, good behaviour and improvements in literacy. Classroom resources are provided to teachers to measure student success on a daily basis and to connect with parents on their child’s progress. Students who show consistent progress are acknowledged for their efforts in front of family, friends and community at Starting Block Awards ceremonies, celebrated at the end of each term.
Once student progress was evident in the Starting Block Program, the Horizons Program was introduced to recognise major learning achievements throughout the year. By offering interstate personal development trips to students based on attendance, attitude and a demonstrated desire to achieve, children are given strong motivation to aim for more ambitious learning milestones. Each week-long personal development camp includes interactive career workshops, mentoring sessions, corporate engagement visits and workshops with well-respected role models from the Indigenous community.
Already, the Starting Block Program is having a positive impact. In its first year the program reached 220 Indigenous students from Wadja Wadja High School and Woorabinda State School and over 72 parents, and has the support of 2 principals and 15 teachers. By the end of 2015, 232 attendance awards; 44 literacy awards and 44 behaviour awards had been presented to students in Woorabinda across 4 terms. Significantly, over 66 students were achieving at or above 90% attendance, and there is good progress towards the long-term goal of reaching a 25% increase in the number of students achieving the school attendance benchmark.