Changing the rules of the game: the SEDA program at Tiwi College, 2015

Tiwi Aboriginal Australian youth Vocational education and training Northern Territory Tiwi Islands Darwin
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The evaluation of the Tiwi College and Sports and Education Development Australia [SEDA] program aimed to determine how the program was progressing in 2015. If progressing well, to next task was to outline what worked for Tiwi students, and indicate whether that could be applied by SEDA to new locations with predominant Indigenous student cohorts in other NT locations, or nationally. The report provides clear evidence that things are working well for the Tiwi College SEDA program, with significant improvements in class numbers, attendance and strong evidence for high levels of inclusion, skilling and student achievement that is positioning them well for future employment. These results are remarkable given the SEDA program is only in its second year, the class teacher is new, some students joined the class well into this year, and many students previously felt alienated from school and lack core literacy and numeracy skills.

The Hands On Learning survey data confirmed how students are developing skills, finding meaning in class by being involved in real tasks valued by themselves, their school and communities, and are feeling better connected to lifelong education and training. These results match the attendance rates now consistently above 80%. As the acting CEO of the Tiwi Land Council observed, “Something special is happening this year. SEDA at the Tiwi College is potentially a real game changer in how we engage and produce real outcomes for our young men”. While the Report has extensive positive findings, it does not romanticise the Tiwi College context and outcomes. Rather, the Report describes pragmatic and hard-won strategies that should assist sustaining and expanding this “something special” on the Tiwi Islands for 2016 and beyond without glossing over the tensions, many not of their own making, that impact on these young men’s lives, their communities and Tiwi College staff, as they do in many other parts of Australia in the C21.

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