Principals from some of Australia’s leading girls’ schools recently spent five days in the remote far north Queensland community of Lockhart River, thanks to an innovative educational and cultural exchange organised by Bond University.
From the local Mayor and school principal to the elders and artists, Lockhart River rolled out the red carpet for the ‘Women’s Yarning Up’ tour that included principals from Abbotsleigh, Mentone Girls Grammar School, Worawa Aboriginal College, Somerville House, All Hallows School, Melbourne Girls College and Methodist Ladies College.
Telstra Business Women’s Award winners, Dr Sally Pitkin from the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Cathie Reid from APHS also joined the group, bringing their corporate viewpoint to the experience.
Co-hosted by indigenous representatives, Leann Wilson from Regional Economic Solutions and Tony Martens and Leon Epong from Recruitment Outcomes, the visit was initiated through Bond’s partnership with the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia.
“Through our Pathways and Partnerships initiative, Bond has developed a very successful relationship with the Alliance that has involved arranging corporate guest speakers to attend Alliance dinners and hosting a Student Leadership Conference attended by 160 Alliance school representatives earlier this year,” said tour organiser and Bond’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Pathways and Parcommunities and that they have a number of outreach and support programs in place for them so our Lockhart River trip was a unique opportunity for the Alliance school principals to see first-hand the real issues and challenges indigenous girls face in isolated regions.”
The group’s itinerary included a full day of activities and round table discussions at Lockhart State School, a visit to the renowned Lockhart River Art Centre, a church service and morning tea with the community elders and visits to the town’s childcare centre, women’s shelter, medical clinic and police station.
“We were particularly blessed to have Bond Fellow Leann Wilson and Lois Peeler from Worawa Aboriginal College as part of the group,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
“These two outstanding and highly respected Aboriginal women leaders were able to share invaluable cultural insights and navigated our introductions to the community’s female elders who spent a lot of time with us, sharing their wisdom and hopes for the community’s young people.”
President of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia and headmistress of Abbotsleigh, Judith Poole described the visit as an “eye-opener”.
“This has been an outstanding opportunity for us to see and learn and talk to the people in Lockhart River who impact on the children’s education – from the school principal and teachers to the elders and other community leaders,” she said.
“We were also able to spend lots of time with the children, working with them in the classrooms and meeting them again at barbeques and picnics.
“Towards the end of our visit, we had some preliminary discussions with the Lockhart School principal about how the Alliance schools can continue to develop this relationship and perhaps get our students involved in some way.
“Being more aware of the issues for students coming from remote communities to our boarding schools has also highlighted the unique challenges they face and I will certainly be looking at how we can manage that transition for them more effectively at Abbotsleigh.
“Overall, the Alliance’s partnership with Bond University has been absolutely fantastic in helping our teachers and students connect with female role models and corporate leaders but, in many ways, I think our visit to Lockhart River will have the most far-reaching effect of our relationship so far.”