25 November 2018

25 Nov 2018 St Catherine's indigenous program media response statement

You may have seen a story on Indigenous students in boarding schools on ABC on 25 November 2018, which included an interview with one of our former students.

As you know, we don't make public comments about individual students, but we welcome the opportunity to update you on the program we have in place for our Indigenous students, to ensure they are well supported.

We are very proud of our Indigenous students, past and present, and recognise that they all have their own journeys. Our role is to give them, as we do all our students, an excellent well-rounded education in a nurturing environment that equips them for a fulfilled and successful life in whatever path they choose.

Currently there are 12 Indigenous students at St Catherine's, representing a mix of fee-paying and scholarship day and boarding girls.

We work closely with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF), the GO Foundation and the Moriarty Foundation as scholarship providers. We also have a well-developed network among schools to make sure we are working together to support the academic and pastoral needs of our Indigenous students as best we can.

Over the last few years we have made a significant investment in the Indigenous education program at St Catherine's. Our dedicated Indigenous Coordinator mentors girls and oversees their individual learning needs, and we provide out of class learning support and tutoring for any Indigenous students that require it, starting as early as possible in their education journey. Our Indigenous Coordinator also supports our Indigenous students to participate in programs facilitated by our partners, as well as local sporting and community opportunities. 

We have developed a culturally inclusive environment within the school, championed by St Catherine's headmistress and supported by staff, students and the school community, including through the celebration of important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander celebrations such as NAIDOC week.

As part of our school community, all students have access to a full-time school counsellor and the boarding students have access to a number of support staff. In 2019, the role of Indigenous Coordinator will be further expanded to include all wellbeing aspects for our Indigenous girls.     

We also endeavour to work with girls, their families and their communities from well before they start at our school. The Head of Boarding and Academic Care and the Indigenous Coordinator travel to students' homes to interview them and meet their community prior to enrolment. This has certainly helped us to better understand the challenges a student might face, allows us to develop relationships and forge a communication channel between the school and the community. A good example is our Shoalhaven community whom we visit each year and in return, have welcomed them to the school for NAIDOC Week to participate in celebrations.

We are aware of the difficulties some Indigenous students could face and consequently are constantly striving to improve our practices to make their journey a happy and successful one. This is witnessed in the many heart-warming stories from our recently graduated students, many of whom have chosen to progress to tertiary study in courses that will allow them to make lifelong professional contributions to their communities.​