Deadly back to school fun at Kimberwalli

More than 2000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have returned to school with necessary supplies. Alyssa Terese reports.

A man handing gift bags to two children. A man handing gift bags to two children.
Image: Western Sydney students Mia and Madison Carter collect their bags from Kimberwalli general assistant Zarn Kerr.

Students from 274 schools in Greater Western Sydney gathered at Kimberwalli recently for backpacks filled with school supplies to kickstart their return to education.

It was the second year that the Carter sisters, Mia and Madison, have benefited from the back-to-school initiative at Kimberwalli, the western Sydney Aboriginal Centre for Excellence.

Mia, in Year 8 at Robert Townson High School, and Madison, Year 6 at St Andrew’s Public School, said they appreciated their school supplies and coming to Kimberwalli “to see our friends and hang out”.

Kimberwalli works in partnership with the community to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and families in western Sydney to reach their full potential through connection to culture, country and community, and access to lifelong learning.

Now in its third year, the back-to-school initiative on January 24, provided support for students of all ages and particularly those in important education transition years – kindergarten, Year 7 and Year 11 and 12.

In addition to essential school supplies, students and visitors were treated to a sausage sizzle, popcorn and fairy floss, a book swap stall, photo booth, information stalls and the opportunity to paint personalised wooden name tags for the new school bags.

Western Sydney mum and Department of Education Aboriginal Education Strategic Delivery Advisor, Vicki Bowen, said she appreciated the back-to-school backpacks and the support for families in need.

“My daughters, Christine and Summer, have been supported for their back-to-school needs for the last few years – it’s an amazing initiative and by providing this opportunity for families to come and be given these backpacks is a credit to Kimberwalli,” Ms Bowen said.

The backpacks are tailored to the students’ school year with the primary backpack including a bucket hat, drink bottle, coloured and lead pencils, crayons, textas, ruler, sharpener and glue stick.

The secondary backpack also included assorted books, a scientific calculator, correction tape, highlighters, pens, pencils and other stationery items.

A child having their face painted and two girls colouring in. A child having their face painted and two girls colouring in.
Image: Face-painting and school bag tag decorating at the Kimberwalli back to school event.

Kimberwalli Director Kelly Stanford said this year about 200 additional families had reached out to access the backpacks.

“We want our young people to start their first day of school feeling really confident in the classroom and having all the tools they need to reach their full potential,” Ms Stanford said.

Ms Stanford said of the more than 2000 recipients,180 kindergarten students and 120 Year 7 students were now well equipped to start their important education transition years and 105 students supported to complete their HSC.

“It was truly special seeing the students and their families’ bright smiles, and some grateful tears, as they received their school supplies, and we hope that it keeps growing each year so that we can support our young people,” she said.

The day was a collaboration between Kimberwalli, government agencies and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. Contributing organisations included Greater Western Sydney Aboriginal Health Service, Western Sydney Indigenous Care, NSW Department of Education, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Health, Centrelink, NSW Police Force, and Police Citizens Youth Clubs NSW.

“This event is so much more than providing important learning resources,” Ms Stanford said. “It is a celebration of the amazing youth in our community and all the local partnerships that create 'the village' that is needed to support our youth.

“I cannot thank our local school, community, and government partners enough for supporting our small but powerfully mighty Kimberwalli team to deliver this important back-to-school event.”

Three children standing in front of coloured balloons holding placards. Three children standing in front of coloured balloons holding placards.
Image: Students list their future aspirations in Kimberwalli’s photo booth.
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