“The impact Gawura is having on the kids is extremely positive – if it wasn’t, the community would be quick to let you know! This is the very first attempt in Australia at a model like this – a school within a school. It has been a great case of trial and error and experience and after ten years, is showing great results and great success. At the heart of the whole programme is relationships. The programme would not exist without excellent relationships with the families and community. It’s what drives the programme. The relationships that Gawura has built up with the families and community in the last ten years is very good indeed”.
Charmaine Wellington, mum of the 2016 Captain of Gawura, Wol Wellington, is very vocal about the impact that Gawura has had not only on her son but her family and her community. Charmaine grew up in Nowra during a very racist time. She said all Indigenous children were put in lower classes at school, were unsure about their identity and were not encouraged to be proud of their Aboriginality. Charmaine commented that by spending his primary years at Gawura, Wol has grown up maintaining his identity and being proud of where he comes from. Having a strong sense of identity and a strong sense of self and succeeding in life, go hand in hand for Aboriginal people. “The impact that the Gawura programme has had on Wol and the other little kids in the programme, has been wonderful. Not only does Gawura provide specialised support to each individual kid, it equips the kids with the skills they need to succeed in whatever field they choose to do when they leave school. I know that Wol will take his skills back to community and work with our mob when he finishes school. Gawura also helps maintain and strengthen our culture by keeping kids in community and in their homes and encouraging parent participation at school. I can see, not just from Wol, but all the other little kids in Gawura, that they are no longer disconnected from the world, which we were when we were growing up – they are really proud of their identity”. Charmaine said that Wol is already helping his community, the Jerringa Aboriginal Community, near where the river meets the ocean, on the northern side of Nowra. “My community are ocean people and there are about 200 people. Wol and I go back to community every school holidays. Wol takes the books he gets from the book club which he has finished reading, and gives them to the families in our community. He has been doing that for a number of years. He helps his little cousins with English and they teach him new words in language and he learns more about community. The kids are teaching each other”.