Indigenous study asks ‘where are the children?’

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Indigenous study asks ‘where are the children?’

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Published on 4 August 2016

A University of the Sunshine Coast research team is investigating the long-term benefits of a program conducted five years ago to raise the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Fraser Coast high schools.

Titled ‘Where are the Ghundus?’ – which means children in the traditional Butchulla language – the study involves interviews with around 40 participants who were in Year 9-11 when they took part in the year-long program in 2012.

Fraser Coast-based Senior Lecturer in Education Dr Sharon Louth is leading the USC research team and helped conduct the original program for the University of Southern Queensland.

“It was called Burunga-m Gambay, or Learning Together, and involved a series of identity-building and cultural-based courses and workshops with Indigenous students from high schools in Maryborough and Hervey Bay,” Dr Louth said.

“We know some of the students are now studying at university but we hope to track down the others to find out how this program influenced their career and educational choices,” she said.

“Building cultural pride and fostering a positive sense of self-identity can be stepping stones to increasing educational outcomes for Indigenous students.”

Dr Louth said it was likely the outcomes would be used to enhance existing education programs at the University of the Sunshine Coast and in schools to help them better connect with Indigenous students.

The study is being conducted with the support and involvement of the Fraser Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Butchulla elder, linguist and children’s author Aunty Joyce Bonner and community member Aunty Harriet Vea Vea are part of the research team, which also includes USC’s Head of Indigenous Services Dr Keane Wheeler.

“It is not only important but a responsibility to implement effective programs in schools as this achieves student’s potential and individuality,” Aunty Joyce Bonner said.

Students who participated in the original Burunga-m Gambay program are asked to contact Dr Louth on (07) 5456 5619 or email slouth@usc.edu.au.

— Clare McKay

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