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St Joseph’s FLC, Alice Springs, NT

Our Education / St Joseph’s FLC, Alice Springs, NT
Something new - and inspiring - has been happening in the Red Centre and having a great impact on young people and their communities.

St Joseph’s Flexible Learning Centre caters for students around the Alice Springs area who are disengaged from mainstream schooling. Some of our students have experienced domestic violence, have had contact with the law, experience homelessness and are, in general, extremely socio-disadvantaged. Often our young people have experienced some form of trauma during their lives and we work with the students, their families and the community to help each young person achieve success. 2017 saw many successful learning opportunities for our young people – one being an exciting elective program that included the Duke of Edinburgh International Award.

From our school population of around 110, of which 98% are Aboriginal, we had 23 young people involved in the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award.  Students spent eight months undertaking a variety of activities in three different categories – recreation, skills development and service to community.

“Picking up rubbish at Anzac Hill was one of our service activities.  We did this twice and got five garbage bags full of rubbish both times.  It was a bit embarrassing having people watch us in their cars while we were picking up rubbish.  But one person pulled over and told us what a great job we were doing.”

“We got to go bike riding to the Telegraph Station.  We had these old bikes we hired from the shop in the mall.  Our teacher didn’t know how to ride a bike properly and was shaking the whole way down the mall. We thought she was going to fall off.”

Many students also participated in the school AFL team, building skills not just in football but also in photography and providing service to their team mates by running water. On weekends students participated in their local football club matches, often ticking off three hours of recreation a week to meet their targets.  Some students also played in the school soccer team on Monday nights. Other activities that students were involved in included studying for their Learner Driver's Licence, serving food at the school community days, designing the new school AFL jumpers and painting the school.

The fourth component of the Duke of Edinburgh Award is an adventurous journey, students who completed the award this year went on either a soccer trip to Brisbane or a Sydney Immersion Trip to St Pats.

“It was the first time I had been on a plane, it was scary when it took off, but exciting at the same time.”

“My favourite part of the Brisbane trip was going to Dream World and going on all the rides, Martin got so scared in the Zombie one.”

“In Sydney we went surfing.  It was the first time surfing for me.  We were just Aboriginal people from Alice Springs; we didn’t know what we were doing.  I was a bit scared to get in the water at first.  But with the support of those around me I overcame my fears and jumped in.  They told us to wait, wait, and then when we felt it was right to catch the wave.  I caught a few but couldn’t stand up.  Only Dusty managed to stand up.”

“It was noisy when we went to the city and it felt so big and crowded. We couldn’t even see the stars at night because there was too much building. What I liked about the trip is when we talked about where we came from and who we are to the St Patrick’s fellas and we learned how they live and what they do.”

To graduate with their Bronze Award in November students had to complete components by the end of September. Through their dedication and hard work,  we had seven students achieve this by meeting the components of:

  • three months service to their community
  • three months skills development
  • six months of recreation
  • one adventurous journey  

On November 2, five of these seven students attended the Alice Springs Award Ceremony at the Convention Centre.  This was a ‘Territory Rig’ evening meaning students had to wear dress pants and ties – something very new to our young people.  After a trip to Target, they were all kitted out and ready to attend the ceremony, despite being extremely nervous to get up in front of other people.

This was a proud moment for our school community,  seeing the five young men get up in front of a crowded room, receive their certificates and shake the hand of the NT Minister for Families – Dale Wakefield.

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Throughout this program we have seen our young men and women grow and build upon many skills, including team work, communication and organisation. They have demonstrated commitment to the program and we believe that a further ten students should be eligible for the next round of awards, only waiting on their camp component to be completed. 

The Duke of Edinburgh program has bought much into the lives of our young people, giving them the chance to experience activities such as rock climbing and horse riding, playing sports like volleyball, football, basketball and softball and giving back to the community, including feeding the homeless in Sydney and helping to make our school community better.  It takes a whole school to run this program, as well as the commitment of the students to complete at least 51% of the award after school hours.  We are extremely proud of what our students have been able to achieve.  Often throughout the program we were asked:

“So how many hours do I have left?”

“I did three hours of service in the weekend.  How many does that mean I have to do now, can we mark it off?”

“Can we do the next one, next year.  The silver one?”

St Joseph’s appreciates the support from the Duke of Edinburgh NT to enable our young people to achieve this bronze award and look forward to seeing more complete this and higher awards in the future.

Catherine Harris 
Duke of Edinburgh Program Coordinator
St Joseph's Flexible Learning Centre 
Alice Springs, NT