MINISTER for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello has praised Orange’s contribution to indigenous education during a visit to the region on Thursday.
Mr Dominello and member for Orange Andrew Gee toured Canobolas Rural Technology High School and later officially opened TAFE Western’s Winhanganha Aboriginal learning centre.
The high school offers several programs for its indigenous students, including the Norta Norta study program to provide academic help, the Girri Girri sport program, language classes and didgeridoo-making classes.
School captain Taylor Clark said the Norta Norta program in particular had helped him.
“Now [students] in year 11, their marks have improved,” he said.
Mr Dominello and Mr Gee took part in an indigenous version of bingo with the school’s academically talented (AcTal) class, before meeting students producing didgeridoos and other wooden art forms.
Year 10 student Lizzie Kilby said the programs were important to the large indigenous population at the school, while year 7 student Callan Naden said he wanted to see more government support to explore indigenous recreational activities.
The minister said the visit gave him an insight into future education directions.
“The programs are showing me that if people have the flexibility, which this principal [at Canobolas High] does, they can be very inventive,” he said.
While the Winhanganha Aboriginal learning centre has been in operation since November, Mr Dominello was in attendance for the official opening, which included a smoking ceremony, a welcome to country by Michael Newman and speeches from TAFE Western Aboriginal education and equity provision director Rod Towney and TAFE Western institute director Kate Baxter.
At 7000 enrolments, TAFE Western offers the largest indigenous vocational training service in Australia.
Mr Dominello said he was shocked by a recent beyondblue survey, which found 33 per cent of Australians viewed Aboriginal people as lazy, 40 per cent thought they were given unfair advantages and 20 per cent would move away if an Aboriginal person sat nearby.
“In day-to-day situations, you can see how devastating it would be to be the subject of that,” he said.
“Compared to where we were in 1967, we’ve come a long way - is there more to do? Absolutely, but the fact that we’re talking about this is a very good thing.”