When Zarlia was in Year 9, she recognised that she wasn't thriving at school, but knew she needed to complete Year 12 to pursue her career goals. She had noticed that a number of kids at her school were doing courses at TAFE NSW and wondered if that might suit her better.
Zarlia spoke to her principal about whether she could continue her education at TAFE NSW.
“He was definitely supportive of the idea,” recalls Zarlia, who ended up leaving school and enrolling in a course equivalent to Year 10, the Certificate II in Career Preparation course at TAFE NSW's Kingscliff campus.
While Zarlia’s educational transition wasn’t without its hiccups, the young Aboriginal student is doing well in the on-campus learning environment.
“Being treated like an adult motivates me to learn,” says Zarlia. “At school, I was sometimes treated like a kid, even though I’ve had to grow up a lot quicker than most.”
Zarlia speaks enthusiastically about her TAFE NSW experience to date. She successfully completed her Certificate II and is now and enrolled in the Certificate III in Pathways to Further Study (Year 11 equivalent). In semester two, Zarlia plans to start work on the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation, the equivalent of the HSC.
“I’m doing English and Maths, Australian Studies and Human Rights,” says Zarlia. “I’m really enjoying it. The teachers are great and I am getting lots of one-on-one attention.”
And thanks to the Targeted wrap-around services for under 17-year-olds at TAFE NSW initiative, Zarlia has also benefited from some additional support to help her succeed.
“Zarlia told me she didn't have a computer at home, and that that was making it hard for her to keep up with her studies,” says Kristie Hedley, Head Teacher Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills at the TAFE NSW's Kingscliff and Murwillumbah campuses.
“When I heard that she came from one of our EPPP pilot schools, Mullumbimby High, I knew that we'd be able to help her."
The Wrap Around Services for Under 17 Year Olds at TAFE NSW provides students who haven’t completed year 12 with a suite of support including: regular check-ins with a dedicated Student Support Officer; financial support for transport; study materials or a computer to address barriers to learning; and access to support services such as career counselling, Aboriginal or disability student support.
"I put her in contact with our Murwillumbah Student Support Officer, Renee Shaw, and we got the ball rolling,” Kristie says.
Zarlia's laptop has been a big help, particularly in light of COVID’s acceleration of online learning.
“I’m getting a lot of my lessons on Google Classroom now, and having the laptop means I can submit assignments from home if I need to, or catch up on work, which is great,” says Zarlia. “I’ve definitely had a lot of help.”
According to Kristie, that help has been gratefully received.
“Zarlia's story is an example of a hard working student who is really striving to improve herself, but still sometimes needs that little extra hand to make the difference,” says Kristie. “Zarlia has been so grateful for the help – I've never heard a kid say ‘thank you’ so much.”
So, what’s next for this spirited student?
“I’m really interested in the environment and sustainability, and I'm thinking of having a gap year after I finish Year 12 and doing a volunteer program in that area,” says Zarlia.
Longer term, Zarlia is keen to study law at university. Not one to back away from a debate, and driven by a strong sense of social justice, it’s not hard to see Zarlia defending human rights, working on Aboriginal issues, and contributing to the betterment of her community.
Admittedly, that’s a long way off, but Kristie is confident that Zarlia will succeed in whatever she sets her mind to.
“Her dogged determination and enthusiasm for life will hold her in good stead and prove the naysayers wrong.”