Therapist support empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

By Claire Absolum, 27 May 2016 , Comments

“We’re young, black and deadly!” sing the kids of Jarjum College in Redfern at their morning gathering. The lyrics are from a school song which the kids made up themselves.

Heading the morning meeting is Principal Fran McCarthy who is responsible for the school’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students aged between 4-13, many of whom have experienced challenges within mainstream learning environments.

Fran talks to the kids about respectful behaviour and gives them the chance to decide where they’ll go for their weekly excursion. This time round it looks like Bronte Beach has been given the thumbs up. Also on the agenda is an acknowledgement they have just received from Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore who the met the kids last year at the opening of Reconciliation Park in Redfern. 

Jarjum College was established in 2013 to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students that were experiencing learning difficulties. After the college equips the students with much needed life and educational skills, they will eventually re-enter mainstream schools.

Jarjum College Principal Fran McCarthy working with a student

Since early 2016 Northcott speech therapist Kate McIntosh and occupational therapist Anna Francis have been part of the Jarjum team.  Each week they work to upskill the teachers and provide strategies to help the students with reading, comprehension and other language skills.

Kim, one of the teachers at the school says: “While as teachers we are focused on achieving outcomes in the classroom, Anna and Kate are able to identify the underlying difficulties that the children are experiencing in terms of their confidence in speaking and understanding how language is formed….it provides support for us as teachers to then teach more effectively.”

A teacher at Jarjum College working with young school students

Northcott occupational therapist Anna Francis says the experience of working at Jarjum has been “really fun…and is about being part of the community and finding a niche. From a professional point of view its been about incorporating occupational therapy into what they are already doing and identifying the ways that previous methods of teaching haven’t matched the ways that kids learn.”

Fran says Anna and Kate have been making an enormous difference at the school and that their “calm, steady” approach is having a noticeable impact on the students.

Northcott’s partnership with Jarjum College has been made possible as a result of the very generous donation from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.

National Reconciliation Week runs from May 27 –  June 3.

The Jarjum College building in Redfern


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