Menindee Central School is an outstanding example of how our schools use innovative strategies to improve outcomes for Aboriginal students.
When your home town is a small dot on the map in the middle of the outback it can be hard to know what the wider world can offer.
But Menindee Central School – 900 kilometres west of Sydney – is changing that with a program that has seen its graduates embrace work opportunities throughout NSW and even interstate in the past decade.
By offering every Year 11 student the chance of a school-based traineeship Menindee Central School is motivating them to complete school and making school an active pathway to work and further education.
Graduates are scattered far and wide, including police stations in suburban Sydney, Aboriginal Legal Services around the state, mines and aged care in Broken Hill, and preschools in Adelaide and Menindee.
Jordi Fusi, a graduate who undertook a traineeship, now runs his own company, Kutanya, which provides cultural support, planning and camps for vulnerable children and also youth work support.
His company now employs Menindee Central students in their holidays.
Even when trainees have chosen a different career path, the vocational skills they have developed under the program have been a big boost to their prospects.
Targeting senior students with the chance to complement Higher School Certificate studies with a school-based traineeship fits well with a comprehensive spectrum of initiatives that Menindee Central pursues to improve students’ educational outcomes and life opportunities.
These range from building students’ literacy and numeracy foundations, constantly improving year-on-year outcomes, reinforcing the value of school attendance, strengthening community and family partnerships to support learning, and providing caring support post-school for graduates.
Menindee Central School Year 11 student Brooke Briar is currently undertaking a traineeship with the National Parks and Wildlife Services. She said the traineeship helped improve her skills and also put some extra money in her pocket.
“My traineeship is really good because I get to learn about the role of the field officers while getting paid and learning new skills,” she said.
Menindee Central Executive Principal Fiona Kelly said school-based traineeships have had an extraordinary impact on her students and the community.
“Some trainees have been the first in their household who have worked,” Ms Kelly said.
“Menindee has very limited employment opportunities, so these traineeships give students a chance to learn vital skills for the workplace while earning money.
“In the early years, the trainee may have been the first in their family to have a job, but now it’s the norm to do a traineeship while studying for the HSC [and] our students feel more confident that they will find work after the HSC.
“Their parents encourage them to do traineeships and their families feel proud of their success.”
Each year most students opt for a traineeship and so far almost 30 have completed their industry-accredited qualification as well as gaining a HSC.
Although traineeships focus on students in their final two years of school, Ms Kelly said there were broader, far-reaching benefits to all students.
“It’s a great motivator to see the senior students, who they look up to, committed to their traineeship, work and their school studies,” Ms Kelly said. “They see that this is what working in class can help you achieve.
“In a small community, where many students have family links, everyone is well aware of how graduates who are studying or in the workforce are faring. It fuels younger students’ aspirations and gives them something to strive towards.”