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  What Works - The Work Program

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New England Institute of TAFE

Getting a taste of future options

Background | Projects in 2001 | A project in Tamworth | Factors in success


Between 1998 and 2000, the New England Institute of TAFE conducted an IESIP SRP which focused on the retention of Indigenous students from Year 9 to Year 10. This was the level at which students were most at risk of dropping out of school. The project involved over 100 students and operated at 11 sites across the New England and north-west slopes area of New South Wales.

The idea was to provide Indigenous students with the opportunity to spend half a day each week engaged in a range of hands-on activities which were related to vocational opportunities in particular local areas. Actual activities varied between sites because of differences between communities. This took place outside the school, either in a TAFE facility or elsewhere.

Each group had an Indigenous facilitator with them each week, working as a mentor and role model for the students within the TAFE college. Facilitators completed four days of intensive training for their roles.

Students were able to complete a generic 'Work Skills Module', a course which equates to Level 1 of the Australian Qualifications Framework and met NSW Board of Studies requirements.

The intention was not to enable students to complete in-depth courses but rather to introduce them to a range of possible directions they could take in future education and training. In this way, the project aimed to stimulate students' desire to continue learning, and find a real purpose for doing so, rather than drop out of school.

Over the life of the project, drop- out rates were reduced across a range of sites. Although it is not possible to attribute this to a single cause, it was believed that the project had contributed substantially to the outcome.

Projects in 2001

New England Institute of TAFE has continued to provide similar opportunities for Indigenous students in 2001, across six sites in the region. Local Indigenous communities were keen for projects to continue, so TAFE and the Institute sponsored some courses, while, in others cases, schools have used their own funds. At some sites, work is focused on particular vocational areas, while at others a broader approach continues.

Some schools are looking at how students can meet the requirements of the School Certificate (Year 10) but at the same time incorporate a range of vocational areas such as retail, small motors, wool classing, rural skills and so on. In those cases, TAFE is able to supply the expertise.

One of the developing outcomes of this work has been the success of the Indigenous facilitators in going on to further education and training or employment. After their initial training they have, for instance, been able to articulate into further TAFE courses by distance mode. In this context, each has been connected with a mentor.

A project in Tamworth

One of the projects provided Indigenous students from a Tamworth secondary school with the opportunity to learn in the context of a local Aboriginal pre-school centre. Facilitator Warwick Keen explains.


Warwick Keen

I had a group of Year 10 Aboriginal kids for three hours every Friday afternoon. They were labelled at risk in that age group where a lot of them don't go on with school. First, I had a talk with the people who ran the pre-school. They wanted some painting projects done and, because I'm an artist and an art teacher, we started with that. I got some photos and designs together and showed the kids the steps we could take in creating this design and painting it and finishing it all. That part was good because it gave them a chance to see what I do and they liked it. They didn't know me before I'm not a Tamworth person but they knew the people that run the pre-school and the kids and families as well. And through the art they got to know me.

And then we painted the designs and everyone got involved. They worked well and they learned a lot. It was very relaxed it was in an Aboriginal environment, in an Aboriginal pre-school.


Bernie Ingle

Meanwhile, I had time to think about other areas we could have a look at and we ended up doing some carpentry and joinery and some tourism and hospitality stuff. Other TAFE people brought the expertise but I was there as support person with these students all the way through.

And I took them out into the community and looked at different things as well. We went to the newspaper office, into ATSIC to see how ATSIC operates and we had people talk to us about the functions and the opportunities for work and what they need to do as far as developing a career path. Other people talked to them at TAFE as well and we had some Elders from the community come and talk to them just about their experiences. And we did some more art. And we did computers. We did lots of things.

I think most of them [the students] went on at school. I get very good positive feedback from them whenever I see them in the community. I only know of one guy who left school and he's got a job and he's having a ball. He's doing carpentry and joinery. He was always good at that. But the others have stuck with school.

Factors in success

Bernie Ingle, project manager of the original IESIP SRP, and Staff Training Coordinator Suzanne Madden contribute the following notes about success factors:


Suzanne Madden

  • The importance of respect for Aboriginal culture and cultural awareness training for non-Aboriginal staff.
  • The involvement and support of local communities.
  • The need to provide a structure within which there is flexibility and capability to change tack when required.
  • The style of teaching as a community of enquiry rather than face-to-face delivery.
  • Recognition of the need to develop trusting relationships with students.
  • Making the training institution non-threatening to students.

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