Griffith University’s Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton uses three simple words to inspire young Indigenous students experiencing big city life for the first time: “This is yours.”
Thirteen students from the tiny and remote community of Doomadgee in northwest Queensland will arrive in Brisbane on Monday (October 28) to begin 11 days of activities and encounters as part of the Doomadgee State School Exchange.
The Year Six and Year Seven students have been selected for the 2013 Show Me Your World Tour, an initiative of the Waanyi Aboriginal Corporation in conjunction with Griffith University’s School of Humanities and Doomadgee State School.
With a population of less than 1300, Doomadgee is located in Queensland’s Gulf Country just 120km east of the Northern Territory border. Doomadgee State School has 340 students enrolled from Pre-Prep to Year 10.
Selection for the Doomadgee State School Exchange is founded on school attendance and participation. The program is an incentive to attend school and a reward for doing so.
Dr Foxwell-Norton – a lecturer in the School of Humanities at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus – worked with the Waanyi Aboriginal Corporation to establish the Doomadgee program in 2011.
“Through community interaction, meetings with Indigenous role models in various fields, school visits and cultural and leisure activities, the aim is to build awareness among the students of the possibilities for their ongoing education and career pathways,” she said.
“They will also visit the Gold Coast, Stradbroke Island, Byron Bay and other locations and at each destination they will interact with local Elders, thus promoting a sense of connectedness with other mobs and belonging within the broader Australian community.”
While artistic and cultural experiences will be explored through visits to museums and art galleries, the students will also try surfing and visit Dreamworld and Surfers Paradise.
Dr Foxwell-Norton said Griffith University’s involvement with the Doomadgee community was a long-term investment in a generation of young Indigenous Australians.
“You only have to see the children at the end of the tour to understand just how positive the experience can be,” she said.
“They stand a little straighter, they’re more inclusive and optimistic, and the experience boosts their confidence for when they make the transition from Doomadgee to boarding schools, universities or other education and training facilities.
“The children also develop a sense of pride in being themselves, in who they are and where they are from. This is particularly the point of the peer exchanges at the schools we visit.”
Dr Foxwell-Norton said it took a lot of courage for the children to leave their community, board a plane and take part in an intense experience in a different world.
“But we want them to understand that this different world is theirs should they choose to come back to further their education or pursue careers,” she said.
“That’s why we say ‘this is yours’ and then do everything possible to demonstrate how and why that is so.”
Participants in this year’s Doomadgee State School Exchange will be officially welcomed on Tuesday, October 29, at 12.30pm, with a luncheon hosted by the GUMURRII Student Support Unit at Griffith University’s South Bank campus.