Empowering students at Jarjum College
Sometimes, all that stands in the way of a person reaching their full potential is access to the right support.
This philosophy forms the basis of Northcott’s work, and was one of the driving forces behind our partnership with Jarjum College.
The college, located in the Sydney suburb of Redfern, is designed to provide a safe learning environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged four to 13 years who are experiencing educational and social difficulties.
To ensure students develop the skills they need to transition back to mainstream schools, Northcott saw the opportunity to collaborate with the Jarjum community in the areas of behaviour support, speech pathology and occupational therapy to develop learning approaches that best support individual students and the school as a whole.
Last year Northcott kicked off a new three-year program with Jarjum, with the majority of funding coming from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, plus contributions from Northcott and Jarjum.
Northcott’s Behaviour Support Practitioner Luke Debono is part of the multidisciplinary team that has been working at Jarjum over the last few years.
“For the last two terms of 2016 I was working at Jarjum twice a week, building relationships with staff and students,” he said.
“Since then I have been working there one day a week doing a range of things – including building relationships with teachers, building rapport with students, creating behaviour support plans for students and working on strategies with the teachers for different issues they’d been dealing with in the classroom.
“Many of the students have complex needs and have experienced trauma, so it’s about trying to make as much of a difference while they’re at school as possible.”
While Luke recognises that it will take some time to see the full effect of the program, he’s already getting glimpses of the impact his work has had on the students.
“I worked one-on-one with a few students, and noticed the change in them through their general interactions with the other students,” he said.
“It’s really about planting that seed of thought. Many of these kids come from vulnerable settings and school is their safe place, so if we can make that time even more productive for them and have their individual needs met then that’s great.”
Staff at Jarjum have also embraced the Northcott team, recognising the potential benefits of having access to therapy training and support.
“It’s so encouraging to see that they recognise that we are there to support them and we are there for the long haul,” Luke said.
“We’re not waving magic wands; we’re just working with them to come up with potential solutions. Rather than saying this is how you should fix everything, it’s more about supporting them to test out new strategies.
“I feel like the fact that we feel inspired by Jarjum, the kids and the community, really shines through. I think they can see that we care about what we’re doing, and we haven’t run away when it got hard. We’re all very passionate about what we do, and passion is contagious.”
Read about Cody’s experience at the National Indigenous Youth Parliament
Learn more about Northcott’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connections