Kimberwalli's back-to-school help goes viral

The Aboriginal Centre of Excellence in western Sydney has helped build excitement among families about the return to school.

Image: Brush with fame: Three of the Stapleton brothers seized the chance for a selfie with TikToker Tristan Davison while picking up their backpacks from Kimberwalli.

When the Stapleton family came to collect their back-to-school backpacks from Kimberwalli Aboriginal Centre of Excellence, a mask wasn’t enough to disguise the celebrity helper on site.

After collecting their backpacks, four Stapleton boys lined up for a photo with Tristan Davison, a social media influencer in the Aboriginal community.

Tristan was on hand to support the back-to-school initiative that saw Kimberwalli hand out more than 2000 backpacks and school supplies today and last Friday to help families with the return to school.

As families filed through to collect the supplies, the hallways echoed with the sound of didgeridoo music.

Kimberwalli director Kelly Stanford said the Blacktown/Penrith LGAs had been heavily affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns, with many families under severe financial stress as a result.

Ms Stanford said the Blacktown/Penrith LGAs were home to the largest and youngest community of Aboriginal people in NSW.

“We wanted to help our community to feel and be empowered on the first day back to school by having everything they needed to thrive,” Ms Stanford said.

She said Kimberwalli had consulted with the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and school Aboriginal Education Officers to help inform what was included in the backpacks.

The backpacks were tailored to the students’ school year with the primary backpack including a hat, lunch cooler bag, library bag, coloured and lead pencils, crayons, textas, ruler, sharpener, earphones and glue stick.

The secondary backpack also included a scientific calculator, visual art diary along with pens, pencils and other stationery items.

Image: Ready for school: Cousins from the Skerry, Blythe and Bell Henderson families collected their backpacks from Kimberwalli. Madison Skerry is standing right.

Doonside Technology High School student Madison Skerry, who picked up her bag last week, was delighted to pick up her backpack and especially excited to see the high school version contained a calculator.

“I am excited about the earphones in the bag but for me the calculator is what I really needed as I was getting in trouble at the end of last year for not having one,” Madison said.

Her mother Tania said Kimberwalli was an important asset for the local Aboriginal community.

Amanda Stapleton said with five children to get ready for school the back-to-school supplies were a big help financially.

“You get a very warm welcome here,” she said.

Mother-of-five Cynthia Barwick agreed and said the back-to-school initiative had “eased the financial pressure”.

“With so much of our money going towards rapid antigen tests, nurofen, cough mixtures, tissues and eucalyptus sprays, cleaning products and fresh fruit, it is a huge blessing to have this provision,” Ms Barwick said.

Ms Stanford said the centre had been “blown away” by the response to the initiative.

“We had 1700 registrations for backpacks by the end of the first day so we are really pleased we are able to respond to what is a great need in the community,” she said.

“Across Blacktown and Penrtih people are starting to reach out because they know it is a culturally safe space.

“Aboriginal people feel they belong because they feel the staff understand their cicrumstances because they are all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.”

Kimberwalli has opened its doors to help the community with returning to school.
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