Governments, communities and individuals are working together to close the gap. Below is just a few examples of what is being achieved.
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Getting kids to school
Elliot the new benchmark for schools across Australia.
It’s a small town on the Stuart Highway between Katherine and Tennant Creek, but Elliott has become the inspiration for communities around Australia seeking ways to get kids to school.
According to Josiah Nuggett, Elliott’s School Attendance Officer, the town’s success is due to the close working relationship between the school, the night patrol, Joshua Jackson the Australian Government’s Indigenous Engagement Officer in Elliott, elders and the community, as well as the many locals volunteering to help kids get to school in the morning.
“The community as a whole has really gotten behind this,” Josiah said. “All the locals want to help our kids get to school and get educated so it was easy to increase attendance this term.”
Elliott School was identified for inclusion in the Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) in December 2013, and it quickly became the first RSAS school to reach 90 per cent student attendance. Josiah’s hard work has been recognised by Elliott School, which has employed him to work three hours a day as a teacher’s aide for students with special needs.
Getting adults into jobs
Nursing career for VTEC grads.
Vocational Training and Employment Centres (VTECs) connect Indigenous job seekers with guaranteed jobs and bring together the support services necessary to prepare job seekers for long-term employment.
This Sydney VTEC, run by Aboriginal owned and operated organisation Yarn’n, is helping to to provide guaranteed health-sector jobs across a range of occupations such as assistants in nursing, ward orderlies, administration officers, technical officers and many others for up to 200 Indigenous people across NSW through their Health Jobs Connect project.
Tiffany Saunders, a 23-year-old from Campbelltown is one of the Yarn’n VTEC participants. She decided that the health field was where she wanted to work after watching her father recover after a serious motorcycle accident.
“I wanted to help people, the way my father had been helped,” Tiffany said. “Once I graduate my traineeship I would like to look at options to continue studying at university as a registered nurse or in midwifery”.
The VTEC participants are supported with living arrangements, health issues and transport to ensure they are ready to make the transition into their guaranteed job on completion of their training.
The Australian Government has committed up to $45 million to deliver Vocational, Training and Employment Centres for up to 5,000 jobs, based on the GenerationOne employment model.
Year 13 changing lives in the Tiwi Islands
Staff at Xavier Catholic College Wurrumiyanga (XCCW) on Bathurst Island realised that some locals wanted to return to school to increase their employment options. Introduced in 2013, Year 13 is designed for mature-aged students who left school prior to graduating or want to continue their schooling to complete their Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training (NTCET). Eight local Tiwi students enrolled last year, with most finding jobs following their graduation, including Edwina Portaminni and Natasha Puautjimi, who have gained work as assistant teachers at XCCW.
“I went back to school so I could graduate and get a good job,” Edwina said. “At first study might be hard, but stick at it because it’s your future.”
Natasha Puautjimi said that returning to school took some getting used to but she was glad she didn’t give up.
“At first it felt strange to be a twenty year old sitting in a class with fifteen and sixteen year olds. After a while though, I became more confident and really enjoyed my classes, especially English, which was my favourite subject,” Natasha said.
Both Edwina and Natasha have been hired by XCCW as assistant teachers and are enrolled in the GOO Program (Growing Our Own), a course run by Charles Darwin University and the Catholic Education Office of the Northern Territory which helps locals gain their Bachelor of Teaching degree.
Improving health and wellbeing
Regional teams tackling smoking and poor health.
Kungarakan and Iwaidja man Jethro Calma-Holt couldn’t be prouder of his job as a Tobacco Action and Healthy Lifestyle worker. Based at the Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation in Wodonga, Victoria, Jethro works to engage and educate the local community on the harmful effects of smoking and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve always wanted to work in Aboriginal health and give back to my people,” Jethro said.
He is part of the Hume Regional Team, which delivers education sessions at schools, gives presentations at community events, engages people online through social media, and works with community members by providing referral pathways.
“Smoking is the cause of many illnesses for our community members and the most preventable cause of early death for our mob,” Jethro said.
“Not only does smoking affect the smoker, but it also affects the health of family members and friends that are exposed to the second and third hand smoke. It can ruin lives in many different ways including financial difficulties, health risks and social exclusion.”
Jethro encourages anyone trying to quit smoking to talk to their local Aboriginal health worker or call the Quitline.
“It takes five minutes doesn’t hurt or cost anything, and can be one of the best choices you make for yourself and your family.”