Young First Nations girls in Townsville are reaching their goals. From joining the army to becoming a radio host, these are the success stories of young women who only a few years ago were disengaged from their education.
Behind their success is a mentoring program run by Stars Foundation, which offers tailored support and encouragement to First Nations girls and young women at a critical point in their lives – helping them to re-engage in education, finish their schooling and get a foot in the door to a career of their choice through work or tertiary study.
These efforts align with three of the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap targets including: lifting school attendance rates; ensuring students finish Year 12 and successfully transitioning into work, training or further study.
Hand Heart Pocket has partnered with Stars Foundation to deliver this program in Townsville during 2022-23.
Stars Foundation has 10 mentors working across three local high schools in Townsville: Heatley, Pimlico and Thuringowa. Last year they supported 270 young women, achieving school attendance rates between 75% and 85%. 94% completed Year 12 and 83% successfully transitioned into work, training or further study.
As one parent put it, their child is now back on track.
“I wanted to thank you for all your help. My daughter has just started a school-based traineeship. I am so excited and proud of her…This is a turning point in my daughter’s life as she was beginning to become disengaged at school and was travelling down a pathway that wasn’t where she should be going. It if wasn’t for Stars Foundation, my daughter would not be going to school and would not have this amazing opportunity,” the parent said.
The program has a balanced approach, with an individual plan for each girl and activities like morning and afternoon sports and an art program, daily breakfast and lunch, cookery classes, and excursions. Home visits and parent get-together BBQs ensure families are involved in the girls’ education. Morning pick-ups help students overcome practical barriers to attending school when they would otherwise have to take three buses to get to school.
In each school there is a Stars room, a warm and friendly space for students to meet with their Stars mentor, have a healthy snack and loan school resources. Often lack of access to these basic essentials that can stop a young person from coming to school.
When it comes to finishing Year 12, there’s added support like an after-school homework club, keeping track of assessments, support in class and help to develop students’ career goals based on their interests. This includes equipping them with job-readiness skills and opportunities to visit local businesses and explore training and tertiary options.
They say, if you teach a young girl, you teach an entire village. Giving girls and young women the support networks to overcome challenging personal circumstances they may face ultimately leads to improving their economic participation over their lifetime.
One student said, “Our Mentors are women who are not only mentors, but they are also like mothers, aunties, big sisters and even close friends to the girls of the program … It can be a challenging time during high school as you’re trying to figure out who you are as an individual while juggling school life. Stars has supported many girls in finding their cultural identity whether they are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.”
Another thanked her mentor saying, “You inspire me to work hard like you. I am very thankful to have all of you in my life and for helping me push through school and every obstacle that comes my way.”
In June 2023, the partnership was extended for another two years.