Gonski supports Shakeela’s dream

Vincentia High School student Shakeela Williams is well on her way to university, with Gonski funding providing one-on-one support and mentoring for her and other students.

She is studying Year 11 at Vincentia High School, a school on the south coast of NSW with a high number of Aboriginal students from the local Wreck Bay community.

The school has used Gonski funding to boost its efforts to give Aboriginal students an education that respects their culture and identity and prepares them to excel.

Extra resources mean that one-to-one support is in place for Shakeela to help her complete Year 12 and go on to University. This includes mentoring and tutoring sessions twice a week.

“I have people every day telling me I can do it, and I know that there will always be support for me,” Shakeela says.

“Without those programs, I would have lost faith in what I am doing long ago. Having someone from the community helping us and encouraging us and telling us it is going to be all right really helps us to achieve.”

“The one-to-one help I get through Gonski funding has really helped me to excel in my studies. I’m getting everything I need to achieve my dream of going to university and studying Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy.”

Vincentia’s student body is 14 per cent Aboriginal and the school has been setting high goals for its Aboriginal students, and making sure they get the support they need to achieve them. It has also built links with the local Aboriginal community, including teaching Aboriginal language and culture to students.

But Gonski funding has allowed it to turn this cultural change into concrete programs which are delivering results.

Vincentia has used its funding to establish an Indigenous learning space which allows students to access resources and support including tutors and mentors. Students are getting the one-on-one guidance they need to overcome any barriers to learning.

The school has also run cultural programs and taught the local Dhurga language, forming links with local families and community. These initiatives have increased Aboriginal students sense of belonging to the school.

Shakeela is not the only student to benefit. Attendance has improved from 42% to 93%, and 85% of Year 12 graduating students gain entry into tertiary education.

She says that education is vital for Aboriginal people and their communities and that the right support at school can change students’ lives.

Gonski funding is targeted to schools which educate high numbers of Indigenous students. Vincentia is just one place where it is making a difference, and Shakeela is one of thousands of students who are finally getting the resources they need for success.

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