Muswellbrook Girls Academy developing Aboriginal community leaders of the future

AN initiative to support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls was launched at Muswellbrook High School on Wednesday night.

The Girls Academy works with more than 30 schools across Australia, with full-time staff on site delivering a program to boost attendance, improve academic performance, build confidence, enhance health and wellbeing, and strengthen cultural connection.

“It has been an honour to be part of something that positively impacts on the Aboriginal girls of our community,” Muswellbrook Girls Academy program manager Elizabeth Howard said.

“In a short time we are seeing wonderful wins for students.

“We’re really looking forward to helping these young ladies achieve the goals they set for the future and watching them grow as leaders.

“It’s been an amazing year here at Muswellbrook Girls Academy.”

Year 12 pupil Katie Van Vliet said the Girls Academy had provided her “more of a support network”.

“It has helped me push myself to a more advanced level,” she admitted.

“Some girls in the program struggle not only within school but also outside of school.

“When the initiative opened, they felt they had someone to talk to. 

“Since starting Year 12, I’ve opened myself up to more roles within the school. 

“I had the opportunity to run for school captain at Muswellbrook High School.

“Elizabeth encouraged me - and I was lucky enough to get the role.

“Within the Girls Academy, the Year 11s and 12s are seen as mentors and this has been very effective. 

“Knowing that the younger girls are able to look up to us like that not only makes us feel good about that but also makes the atmosphere within the room positive.”

The academy was formally opened by Muswellbrook Shire deputy mayor Rod Scholes.

Supporters including Bronwyn Dunston and Mary Bowman (president) from the NSW Hunter River Group of the Country Women’s Association were also present.

“I am so pleased Muswellbrook High School can offer our Aboriginal girls additional support for their educational and social needs through the nurturing and encouragement offered by the Girls Academy program,” Muswellbrook High School principal Elizabeth Bate said.

“Through the support and guidance of the Girls Academy’s staff, I have already seen a feeling of reassurance and calmness among our girls.

“The aim of Girls Academy at Muswellbrook HS is to encourage and to develop strong women, to enable them to have the confidence to take hold of all the opportunities that school (and life beyond school) has to offer.

“Already the Girls Academy has been able to offer a varied selection of activities to our students; from sporting pursuits, links with Newcastle University, targeted wellbeing program, linking in with local services such as the PCYC and NSW Health and an overseas excursion to Japan.”

About The Girls Academy

THE Girls Academy is the leading provider of school-based programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls in Australia. 

The program is community-driven and works within the local school system to support girls to engage in education and pursue their goals though mentoring, sport, cultural and empowerment programs. 

The Girls Academy staff, 80 per cent of whom are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, deliver the program in more than 30 high schools across Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

The Girls Academy is the flagship of Role Models and Leaders Australia, an organisation founded in 2004 by Olympian and champion basketballer Ricky Grace (MEdL, BPolSc) to address the inequity in investment in educational support programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls. 

The Girls Academy is undertaking a significant expansion, which aims to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls who benefit from our program to 2500 girls enrolled in WA, NT, NSW and QLD by the end of 2017, and 3500 girls enrolled by the end of 2019. 

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