CQ organisation keeps indigenous kids in school
THE start of the school year is officially under way, and a Central Queensland not-for-profit organisation is making sure not one student is left behind.
The organisation is diligent in its role in "improving the lives of indigenous people in Central Queensland”.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Closing the GapClosing the Gap report stated that in 2016 the overall attendance rate for indigenous students across Australia was 83.4 per cent, compared with 93.1 per cent for non-indigenous students.
The report also said that indigenous children in more remote communities were even less likely to attend school.
In 2016, school attendance in remote areas was at 66.4 per cent compared to 86.9 per cent in inner regional areas.
CQID was established in November 2004 across Central Queensland towns - Rockhampton, Gladstone, Emerald and Woorabinda.
It was when the organisation noticed the issue with indigenous school attendance numbers, that they decided to step in and provide a multi-faceted outreach program, Ngudyu Yadaba.
The program's name is derived from the local Durumbal language, meaning 'learn and respect', which highlights the organisation's focus on "culture and trying to strengthen cultural identity”.
"Our whole focus is on keeping kids in school and getting them education one way or another,” CQID executive officer Suzi Blair said.
"The need for improved outcomes for local students is very stark. There are enormous statistics for indigenous children's educational outcomes... they aren't great.
"This program is CQID's response to that need. We had to do something and needed to get involved in supporting local youth.
"Once you don't have a good education there are so many economic and social outcomes that don't happen.
"It is fundamental to improve outcomes with education and once a student's education is improved they also see improvement in safety, health and employment outcomes. It's a long term process and we're very committed to it.”
For the last 12 months, the Ngudyu Yadaba program has been run with the support of Federal government and Department of Communities funding.
The program itself has already made roads in connecting with local youth and providing an outlet of support, not just for themselves but for their families as well.
"We are trying to provide practical support and keep people moving forward and providing them with help when needed,” Ms Blair said.
"Our mission is to support the indigenous communities. Our focus is families and education.”
Last Wednesday, local athletes PJ Marsh and Tamika Upton worked with CQID in a program called Warrior Within.
The program was run as a touch football day where children were able to interact with successful athletes who had also come from Rockhampton's indigenous community.
"Programs like this are run during the school holidays... we identify their needs and design programs around those kids,” Ms Blair said.
"PJ was great and you can tell he really wants to give back to the community. Tamika is a touch player who plays for Australia and lived in Rockhampton her whole life.
"She is a real person in our community and living proof that you can aspire to something great while in Rockhampton and as an indigenous person.
"Role models open people's eyes to what's possible and they inspire.”
CQID also recently ran a culture day with Durumbal Enterprise.
"Boys made and play and left with their own didgeridoos,” Ms Blair said.
"It was really amazing for them... they became proud of themselves and developed a stronger sense of self.
"The girls also worked with an elder woman and they did some hand craft kind of activity and painting and the girls loved that.”
CQID works with local schools, who contact the organisation with potential students who could benefit from the program.
"Every year of education is important,” Ms Blair said.
"There's no age limit but we generally work with upper primary students... and primary and secondary school children.
"We are on the right track and we are resolving issues for people and getting them help where they need it.”
Although Ms Blair recognised that change can't be made overnight, she was hopeful that CQID would continue to be successful in focusing on the "real barriers as to why students are not engaging at school.
Ms Blair also said the organisation focuses on what support is needed, as well as providing information for parents and teachers and "getting a good action plan in place”.
"Success is hard to measure, but on a day to day basis, we are definitely a safety net,” she said.