Horse whispering builds self-confidence
Horse whispering and fire fighting are being used to successfully reconnect disengaged Aboriginal students at local public high schools on the NSW South Coast.
The voluntary program, for students in Years 9-11, was an alternative to attending full-time school, but required students to make a commitment to attend the program's activities and TAFE course.
Adrian Feirer, a local horse trainer and horse whisperer, said working with the horses helped instil trust, self-esteem and confidence in the students.
They [the students] are more confident and positive within themselves - the program has turned them around..
"They learn how to communicate with the horses and to solve problems without aggression ... the connection they make with the horses helps them in their lives and it fosters their enthusiasm for life and makes them feel better about themselves because they achieve a goal," he said.
Other components of the program also helped the students to better deal with anger and strong emotions.
Erin Eade, a regional Aboriginal attendance officer who helped initiate the project, said the program also offered individual education and work pathway planning, case management, mentoring and referrals to appropriate agencies.
Ms Eade said out of the 14 students who started the pilot, only two discontinued.
"These students have come such a long way," Ms Eade said. "They are more confident and positive within themselves - the program has turned them around."
She said a student who was facing expulsion had managed to remain at school and not be suspended once since starting the program.
"The program filled a gap for these students and hopefully has made the concept of education and planning a positive future meaningful to them again."
Photo: Horse whisperer Adrian Feirer. By Kim Treasure, Bay Post.