Fresh start to a brighter future
Tiga Bayles is determined no one forgets that despite being school captain he was not allowed to catch the school bus back in the days when he went to school.
The Indigenous Education Ambassador shared his experiences with Maclean High School students recently as part of the Fresh Start program that aims to help Indigenous students transition into jobs and further education.
Fresh Start, launched by the Clarence Valley Industry Education Forum during 2009, is making a huge impact on the schools in the region in supporting their Aboriginal students.
Mr Bayles, a well-known radio personality, inspired the Maclean High community with his address that marked the Year 7 cultural day.
"I know from experience that education gives our people choices about the kind of future they want for themselves," Mr Bayles said.
Maclean High principal Tony Carr said students were appalled to learn Mr Bayles, when school captain, was not allowed to be on the school bus.
"We have a large Aboriginal community and it's important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to have an understanding of the past, present and future," Mr Carr said.
"This is our second year where our Year 7 students have gone on a cultural tour led by elders.
"We now have parents also eager to go on the tour."
Departmental consultant Kerren Law said Fresh Start involved partnerships between high schools, local council, TAFE, university, Aboriginal education teams and three Aboriginal nations.
"We conduct learning events directly linking school to future employment growth options through practical learning for students," Ms Law said.
"The involvement of non-Indigenous students and teachers in the program has helped to raised cultural awareness across Clarence Valley Industry Education Forum partner schools.
"Each event has provided students with opportunities to interact and learn from Aboriginal people successfully pursuing careers and has further strengthened the relationship between schools, business and the Aboriginal community.
"We believe it's the beginning of something big and meaningful for the Clarence Valley."
Clarence Valley Industry Education Forum chair and School Education Director Ron Phillips said the strength of the forum was that the whole community was behind the partnership.
"It's an amazing journey we're on and it's also the best thing I've ever been involved with," Mr Phillips said.
"We have unanimous support for enhancing opportunities for young Aboriginal people.
"Our aim is to ensure their retention in the educational system, ensure they gain credentials and ensure they have a meaningful career pathway.
"It won't happen overnight, but we are all determined to do what we can to make the future one we can all be proud of."
Photo by Kylie Wilkinson.