Making a difference in the lives of Aboriginal students
Learning in Residence – Wesley’s contemporary model for school boarding – has been recognised by Australia’s peak boarding school organisations for best practice in boarding.
Wesley College and the Bunuba Aboriginal people have together won the ‘2019 Excellence in Indigenous Boarding Award’ presented jointly by the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA) and Indigenous Education & Boarding Australia (IEBA) for program excellence in making a difference in the lives of Indigenous boarders.
The Wesley and Bunuba partners won the award for their program at the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School in the Fitzroy Valley, 400 kilometres east of Broome in the remote outback of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, and Learning in Residence in Melbourne. The program enables Aboriginal students from the remote outback to live and learn on country at Yiramalay and Learning in Residence in Melbourne.
‘Winning the Excellence in Indigenous Boarding Award is a huge honour,’ said Ned McCord, Executive Director of the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School. ‘This accolade truly vindicates the vision of the Bunuba and Wesley partners who wanted to make a real difference in the lives of Aboriginal students and their communities. It’s recognition of the real, practical ways that we can all contribute to Reconciliation and the creation of a better Australia.’
The Learning in Residence boarding facility, purpose-built for students in Years 10 to 12 from metropolitan Melbourne, rural and remote Australia and international locations, is also a home away from home on Wesley’s Glen Waverley Campus for Aboriginal students from the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School.
According to ABSA Chief Executive Officer, Richard Stokes, ABSA receives a large number of excellent nominations for this prestigious annual award. ‘The depth and detail of the nomination from Sean Cox to celebrate the wonderful work of the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School made them an easy choice for us this year,’ Mr Stokes said. ‘Wesley’s work on Reconciliation and learning for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is outstanding, and it is our pleasure to celebrate it.’
Vibrant and culturally diverse
The result of an equal partnership between the Bunuba people of the Fitzroy Valley and Wesley College, Yiramalay, established in 2010, has achieved ground-breaking outcomes for its Aboriginal students, including:
- 85 per cent of graduates undertaking further study or employment
- Year 11 retention of 79 per cent, compared to 10 per cent nationally
- Year 12 retention of 75 per cent, compared to 19 per cent nationally, and
- A 10-fold increase in enrolments since 2010.
‘Learning in Residence is a vibrant and culturally diverse environment where learning and living are inextricably linked,’ explains Mr McCord. ‘The blend of academic, cultural and social experiences that we provide at Learning in Residence elevates all of our students’ learning and growth in a welcoming and supportive environment, and that’s especially important for our Yiramalay students.’
A contemporary boarding model
According to Sean Cox, Head of Learning in Residence at the Glen Waverley Campus, Learning in Residence is different to a traditional boarding model where every minute of every day is structured. ‘Students choose their routine based on their interests and how they study best,’ says Cox. ‘It’s not regimented in a way that a lot of boarding schools are.’
Boarders live in double-storey homelike spaces, each with a maximum of 16 students and a full-time mentor. They choose activities from a comprehensive evening curriculum, which includes after-hours tutoring, fitness sessions and classes addressing future skills such as collaborating with others and using emotional intelligence to manage their own and others’ emotions.
‘We’re teaching them the skills they need to be successful in life', says Cox. ‘They’re creating habits and ways of learning that will help them study at a tertiary level or be part of a work environment.’