A netball-based education and community initiative is helping Aboriginal girls to shoot for the stars.
School attendance rates of Aboriginal girls in remote Western Australian communities are improving with the help of the netball-inspired “Shooting Stars” program.
“Shooting Stars” uses netball as its primary tool to bridge the gap between engagement and education. The program seeks to help young indigenous women through skills-based activities.
Cooking and healthy eating classes, trips to the local pool, after-school homework support, camps, dancing and singing are some of the engagement tools, alongside netball games, that underpin “Shooting Stars”.
Established in 2015, “Shoooting Stars” works with more than 260 students from primary and secondary schools across six sites – Derby, Meekatharra, Wiluna, Carnarvon, Halls Creek and Mullewa.
Funded by the federal government through the indigenous advancement strategy, Glass Jar is pursuing opportunities to build corporate sponsor partnerships, with the aim to expand the program to reach 2,000 aboriginal girls over the next 5 years.
Glass Jar executive officer and Netball WA indigenous programs general manager, Fran Haintz, said the inclusive nature of netball had enabled “Shooting Stars” to connect with and engage young indigenous girls, and worked with the community to develop a tailored approach at each location.
“When we talk about netball we talk about participation, people building their own capacity, life-long friendships and new team skill sets that you take throughout your life” Ms Haintz told Business News.
“We realised we had a powerful tool that could be used to assist and engage community development and help grow individuals.”
More than 20 per cent of students involved in the program have increased their attendance by an additional five days per term.
“Schools are good at educating and we’re good at engaging – you put those two together and you’ve got more kids at school learning,” Ms Haintz said.
“More importantly, there’s been a change in attitude.”
Glass Jar chair Colleen Hayward said Aboriginal children faced many challenges when it came to achieving at least equivalent educational outcomes as their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
“The greatest of these is school attendance,” Professor Hayward said. “It’s simply too hard for Aboriginal children to learn what they need to learn at school if they’re not there.”
In 2016 attendance rates for indigenous students ranged from 86.9 per cent in inner regional areas to 66.4 per cent in remote areas, according to the federal government.
Across the country, the attendance rate for indigenous students in years one to 10 was 10 per cent lower than non-indigenous students.
And less than 30 per cent of young Aboriginal women have completed Year 12, compared with 60 per cent of other non-indigenous women in Australia currently.
Before the program came to Halls Creek, it did not have a netball association. “Shooting Stars involves schools but it has to also involve the community and its stakeholders,” she said. “It’s a holistic program that brings girls back to the education system or keeps them within it.”