Helping Them Find Their Way
A “mob” of Aboriginal kids sat in a group and played music while others played basketball. They beamed with pride as they ascended the climbing wall that had been constructed for the special day. Painted faces with butterflies, Spiderman and other designs adorned the smiling faces of many of the nearly 100 young people there. It was family day at Woolaning Homeland Christian College, one of nine schools in the Northern Territory Christian Schools system. This was a day of celebration in the residential school. Families came to see exhibits of their children’s school work, interact with the staff and school leadership, and show the younger siblings of the students already enrolled what the next step for them might be like.
Sitting just outside Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, 2 hours’ drive from Darwin, Woolaning operates on land generously leased from the Petherick family, traditional land owners in that area. The school was a vision of a family matriarch and began in 1992 in collaboration with the NT Christian Schools system. This is a big event of the school year in this program and takes a great deal of planning and effort on the part of the staff to make it a success. In addition to the food, accommodations, supervision and festivities, transportation is a significant undertaking. Because the program serves students from across a large expanse of the Northern Territory, staff drive small buses up to six hours to bring families to the event and return them home the following day. It is exhausting, satisfying work for thirty staff members who carry out their faith, in part, through the work they do with these precious young people throughout the year.
The Aboriginal people in Australia are among the oldest indigenous cultures in the world. While their culture and traditions remain intact in many respects, life for the aboriginal people in Australia can be very difficult. Like indigenous people in every part of the world, the presence of colonists from different places and cultures overtook their country and forced many changes on them. They have survived and adapted through the arrival of foreign hunters, the farmers, the miners, and many families continue to try to survive the “Stolen Generation” that began at the end of the nineteenth century.
Aboriginal children continue to be 8-10 times more likely to experience some sort of governmental intervention or out-of-home care than non-aboriginal children. Life expectancy for aboriginal people in Australia is more than 10 years less than for non-aboriginal people. The Australian government and the aboriginal people themselves are working to address many of the significant issues that remain as a result of colonization and the resulting traumas. Aboriginal people continue to struggle to find a healthy balance between traditional ways and the constantly evolving world around them.
Aboriginal children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are enrolled in Woolaning Homeland Christian College by their families. While there the children experience support for their cultural, spiritual, health, and academic and vocational needs.They are served by a very dedicated staff of house parents, educators and administrators with demonstrated compassion and commitment. The experience children have in this setting can build capacity to not only enhance their survival but also help prepare them to thrive.
Woolaning Homeland Christian College and Northern Territory Christian Schools