Updated: Aug 17, 2020
By Luke Gallen
Despite the volatility of the Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot neglect the value of education in providing young people with new skills, outlooks and opportunities in life. While most of us associate ‘education’ with classrooms and teachers, this pandemic has shown the necessity for adults to have positive attitudes to learning, and a respect for education more broadly. Information from public health authorities, for example, has been instrumental in protecting the health of the general population. By learning and adopting a number of expert recommendations, such as good hygiene, social distancing and mental health coping strategies, Australians have been able to look after themselves and prevent further infections.
Pandemic aside, studies have shown that education provides societies with a number of economic and social benefits, including an increase in wages for graduates, augmented levels of national production, and a decline in maternal mortality rates. As more employers request higher levels of formal education, equal access to learning at Australian schools has never been such an important issue. For young Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds, education therefore has powerful ramifications for themselves, their families and their community.
Nhuubala Yugal Education Centre provides individualised support to meet the unique needs of each student. We do this through our relationship-focused approach to learning, as well as our values of community, culture and connection. Despite being founded in 2019, we have already seen great improvements in our students, who, being local to the area of Moree, NSW, face a number of economic, social and geophysical disadvantages.
We also owe our success to the passion and experience of our team, particularly Stephen, our experienced Education Services Manager, and our group of dedicated volunteers.
During my time in Moree I met Darren*, an Indigenous Australian nine year old who loves basketball, drawing pen tattoos on his forearms and rapping. I learnt that behind his cheeky grin and lively personality was a scared kid who carried scissors at all times in fear of the ‘big boys down the street’. Darren spent the majority of his nights on the street, which he perceived to be safer than home. He rarely attended school as he felt there ‘wasn’t any point’ in education. Later I learned that Darren had little to no positive role models in his life. He also felt neglected by his teachers, which made it difficult for him to feel comfortable at school.
His story is not uncommon. In Moree, which is home to the second largest Indigenous nation in the state, only 19% of Indigenous adults complete Year 12, compared to 58% of all Australians over 18. To understand the educational disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, it’s imperative to acknowledge the social, economic and political barriers endured by the former. For our young students in Moree, these challenges have a significant impact on their attitude towards education as well as their ability to access adequate learning support. Disengagement from education negatively impacts future job prospects, which increases the risk of poverty, and even the likelihood of engaging in criminal acts. This is exemplified in Moree, which experiences one of the highest levels of youth crime in NSW.
Young people have the right to feel safe and protected in their homes and local communities. They have a right to good quality education, and ought to be provided with ample career opportunities in their lifetime.
Nhuubala Yugal Education Centre aims to provide young people like Darren with both academic and emotional support. With ‘hands on’ learning and an emphasis on building relationships between staff and students, our Tutoring Centre has already seen significant improvements in student wellbeing.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to set up our Tutoring Centre and keep a number of young people engaged with their learning. While it is uplifting to know that some of the general public care about this cause, we need more individuals, institutions and government bodies to provide financial support to rural education initiatives. As demonstrated in this article, education holds the potential for meaningful and transformative change for regional communities. More importantly, education gives hopeful young people such as Darren a chance to break free of inherited challenges and build a bright and beautiful future of their own.
Support the dreams of our students. Make a donation towards buying a mobile learning centre, which will allow us to bring learning to the neighbourhoods of our students. Each new student represents hope for the future of the Moree community, as well as the possibility of a more equitable future for all Australians.
Words by Luke Gallen
*For privacy purposes the name of the student has been changed.