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  What Works - The Work Program

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Follow The Dream: A statewide ‘aspirational’ strategy in Western Australia

Solid support, deadly future

Program objectives and plan | Beginnings | The partnerships | Coordinators and Learning Centres | Advice from coordinators

Program objectives and plan

Follow the Dream is an aspirational program designed to help Aboriginal students to reach their career potential by graduating from high school and achieving university entrance. The program is currently being delivered to more than 600 students in 10 metropolitan and 15 regional centres. It is not an alternative to school, nor is it a school-based retention and participation program. Participants attend school as normal. The program is complementary to existing educational activities for Aboriginal students.

The program provides students with

  • tutors to assist with homework, study habits and goal setting;
  • an individual education plan;
  • a mentor to review their school progress and general wellbeing;
  • regular updates on academic performance;
  • educational excursions to develop confidence and skills;
  • a safe and supported environment to study after school, equipped with computers and educational resources;
  • career guidance; and
  • regular contact with parents and teachers regarding academic progress.

Follow the Dream is currently the subject of a major longitudinal study by Edith Cowan University.


Douglas Melville

Douglas Melville

Five years ago, Douglas Melville was Manager, Retention and Participation in the WA Department of Education and Training. Here, he talks about the origins of Follow the Dream.

Follow the Dream came out of a request from Bob Somerville [Director of Aboriginal Education, Training and Services in Western Australia]. He asked me to look at how we were going to get more Aboriginal kids through Years 11 and 12 and into university. Everyone knew the numbers were too low.

I'd always known that there were talented Aboriginal kids who we were losing from Year 7 onwards. So how do we keep them at school? That was purely the intent.

The partnerships

The Follow the Dream program promotes partnerships by combining community, cross-agency and significant industry collaboration.

The Western Australian Department of Education and Training provides teaching staff and professional support.

The Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training provides tutoring support, through the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) program.

The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation is a charitable organisation, with a goal of assisting young Aboriginal people to achieve excellence. Through its 'Partnerships for Success' initiative, the Foundation is responsible for a range of Follow the Dream projects, particularly in rural areas.

Industry organisations provide valuable assistance with funding and employment opportunities.

Coordinators and Learning Centres

Learning Centres are central to students' experiences of Follow the Dream. Most Learning Centres are on the premises of the host school, but a few operate off-campus, at the request of the local Steering Committee. Each student agrees to attend the Learning Centre after school on at least two afternoons each week, typically between 3:30 and 5:30 pm, and coordinators and parents also make commitments to their roles in supporting the student.

In their time at the Learning Centre, students get specific assistance with their school work from ITAS (Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme) tutors.

Dave Fitzpatrick

Dave Fitzpatrick

Dave Fitzpatrick is Follow the Dream coordinator at Albany. Here he describes a typical day for students in the Learning Centre.

We start at about ten past three with afternoon tea because they're hungry teenagers. Toasted sandwich makers are the big winner. In the first year we had all manner of sports balls so if they needed to go and burn excess energy they could do that first for a few minutes, but not many are doing that now. Read on...

Lorraine Tunbridge

Lorraine Tunbridge

Lorraine Tunbridge is Follow the Dream coordinator at Girrawheen in metropolitan Perth. Here she discusses some of the issues in her daily work and how she works with her Steering Committee and parents.

Each week, I try to focus on three particular kids and, during that week, I make sure that I've spent some time thinking particularly about them, about where they are at the moment, where they've been and how they can move on. Of course, the particular kids change from week to week. And the other thing I try to make a priority is to pick up the phone once a fortnight and network with other coordinators. That's PD for me. Read on...

Chrissie Parry

Chrissie Parry

Chrissie Parry is Follow the Dream coordinator at Lockridge, also in metropolitan Perth. She talks about building community trust and working with students.

Very few Aboriginal kids had finished Year 12 in the past in the four schools I work with. In fact, most didn't stay to Year 12. But, in the three years of Follow the Dream, about six students have already completed and qualified for tertiary entrance and another five are studying for their TEE at present. Read on...

Tim Gray

Tim Gray

Tim Gray is Follow the Dream coordinator in Broome. He discusses the need for consistency in the program, and how to be flexible, but maintain rigour.

I had a lot to do with teaching some of the Follow the Dream kids when they were younger and I've enjoyed the opportunity to work with them in an aspiration program. It's something different for me, after working more with students at risk for quite a while. Read on...

Jane Nicholas

Jane Nicholas

Until recently, Jane Nicholas was Follow the Dream coordinator in Armadale, again in metropolitan Perth. Here she describes the setting up period of the job and using appropriate data.

I've found that success breeds success with the kids, and that attracts support from staff members. Time and again, once a kid is being successful, teachers notice them more and that makes it a lot easier to discuss their program in detail. There was one kid who actually won a trip to Gallipoli in an open competition, and another who was a finalist. Until then, he'd been quietly sitting up the back of the classroom. Read on...

Advice from coordinators

The five Follow the Dream coordinators featured above provide the following advice.

  • Be genuine, honest and clear with people. Don't make promises you can't keep.
  • Be down to earth, friendly and prepared to have a laugh. But, remember that you are running an important program for the kids, and you've got to set a standard in behaviour and attitude to work.
  • Make good professional judgements about the tutors and the resources you put in. Kids are relying on you to do that.
  • You've got to care and you've got to deliver results. Aboriginal people might forgive a lot, but if you don't deliver for their kids...
  • Be available for Aboriginal families. When a family member comes to see you, you stop what you're doing. If you need to visit parents in the evening, then you make time to do that.
  • Don't be the person who is expected to solve every issue with an Aboriginal kid in the school. But be as helpful as you can, without neglecting your main role.
  • Avoid possible isolation by maintaining contact with other Follow the Dream coordinators, whether by phone or in person.


Data for the first three years of Follow the Dream are below.


© Commonwealth of Australia 2020