Warruwi St Leonard’s College Partnership Program
Term: 2 Year: 2021
St Leonard’s College has had a connection with the Warruwi Community on South Goulburn Island in the Northern Territory since 2014. The community of approximately 400 people live 300km north east of Darwin.
In 2015, when the Wilson Report deemed that secondary schools in some remote communities should close, there was a need to find other arrangements for students wanting to continue their education. A group of girls from Warruwi visited St Leonard’s in 2015. From there, two students, Audrey and Tamia, were supported and encouraged by their families and the school to commence in 2016. The students were in a homestay arrangement with school families. Since then, other students from the community have come to St Leonard’s. Audrey graduated in 2019 having completed Year 12 that was tailored to her needs. Audrey is now a ranger on the island.
The success of the program has been due to the close connection with the students’ families and the support of the homestay families in Melbourne. The staff at the college have learnt so much: not just in how to best provide learning experiences for the students, but also from the students about their community, their culture and their language. The college has ensured that the students are in a culturally safe environment, displaying books, language, artwork and photos connected to their culture. Staff also undergo cultural safety training. The elders from the Warruwi community have made regular visits to Melbourne and taken part in activities in our ELC as well as primary classes. They have told stories connected directly to their country and shared ceremonial dances and songs. Each year, a group of Year 8 students visits South Goulburn Island and makes connections with the Warruwi school students as well as becoming immersed in the community and country.
The key to the St Leonard’s Warruwi Partnership is communication and mutual decision making regarding the wellbeing of the students. The close relationship that has developed with the Warruwi community is unique and one that we are so very privileged to have.
Warruwi Partnership Coordinator
St. Leonard’s College, Victoria