Young and talented Aurora College students shine brightly

A program for high potential and gifted Aboriginal students has seen improvements in attendance and greater connection to community and culture. Jim Griffiths reports.

Students on a Zoom call. Students on a Zoom call.
Image: The Young and Deadly Mob program has identified and united 50 high potential and gifted Aboriginal students in rural, remote and regional areas of NSW through the virtual college.

They’re young and they’re deadly, and Aurora College has found a way for them to flourish, while staying connected to Country.

The Young and Deadly Mob program has identified and united 50 high potential and gifted Aboriginal students in rural, remote and regional areas of NSW through the virtual college.

Program Manager and Acting Deputy Principal of Aurora College, Beth Hodson, said the program aimed to increase the representation of rural and remote Aboriginal students in high-performance programs.

“It’s an opportunity that many would not have in their local communities,” Ms Hodson said.

While the years 5 to 8 Young and Deadly Mob students attend classes at their local school, they also attend small, online classes in mathematics, science and technology with like-minded peers from all across the state at Aurora College.

Students study a personalised curriculum responsive to cultural and learning needs, with a focus on collaboration, organisation and project management skills in addition to maths, science and technology.

They can also participate in masterclasses with experts from Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the Australian Space Agency, the Rural Doctors Network and Taronga Zoo.

“The masterclasses show students the varied opportunities and experiences available to them post school, and help them find the link between classroom studies and careers in fascinating fields of science, applied mathematics and literature,” Ms Hodson said.

The program has a specific focus on culture, with community members invited to share stories of experience and place, which are then linked more concretely to the lessons.

“We’ve focused on bringing together students, teachers, families and partner schools across hundreds of kilometres to have important conversations about cultural engagement and knowledge,” Ms Hodson said.

“From this we have been able to link parents, Aunties, Uncles and extended families to speak to the students and establish local connection to curriculum and culture.”

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Executive Director Karen Jones said the new initiative recognised the key role cultural connection played in Aboriginal students’ wellbeing and academic success.

“This innovative program tells our Aboriginal students that we recognise the importance of Country to them and we will use whatever means we have to ensure they can reach their learning potential,” she said.

The approach, along with the stimulating curriculum designed for bright young minds, has seen improvements in school attendance.

“They’re so eager to learn and participate that they’re often logging onto the lesson early,” Ms Hodson said.

Early results have shown the students – often isolated in rural and remote areas – are now better engaged in school, better prepared for the transition to the next stages of their schooling and have stronger connections to their communities.

The program was designed by the Department, involving the Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate, Aurora College and the High Performing and Gifted Education unit, in consultation with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, NSW Secondary Principals Council and NSW Primary Principals Association.

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