Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) is the winner of the 2020 ABSA/IEBA Excellence in Indigenous Boarding Award.

Watch the video below and read their story to discover more about them how they responded to the pandemic with their temporary Darwin Hub. Congratulations to Executive Director Edward Tudor and the MITS Team!

MITS – Darwin Hub 2020 from MITS on Vimeo.

Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) is a residential transition school for Indigenous students from remote and regional communities. Each year, 22 Year 7 students spend one year at MITS, then transition into scholarships at our Melbourne Partner Schools for Years 8 onwards. MITS also supports these alumni students long after they graduate from our Year 7 program, including the provision of boarding accommodation to 19 female students enrolled in Melbourne Partner Schools. COVID-19 has meant that we have had to make fundamental changes to our operations to ensure we have continued to be able to support our students’ educational goals.

When the pandemic first hit Melbourne in mid-March, MITS made the early decision to send our students home to ensure their safety and the safety of their communities, particularly many Elders who would have been especially vulnerable to this virus. For the remainder of Term 1 and all of Term 2, our teachers successfully ran an online learning program, with our boarding team supporting the wellbeing and homework requirements of each students. We sourced WIFI dongles from Telstra, stationery packs from Coles and Officeworks and King & Wood Mallesons printed a large number of learning pack for our students. The level of engagement we were able to secure from our students, in spite of the challenges of remote learning, was extraordinary; each day, we had at least 70% of our students actively engaged online.

As the coronavirus situation in Melbourne deteriorated further this winter, it became clear that our students would not be able to return to face-to-face learning in Term 3 as planned. We recognised that another term (or possibly even more) of distance education would have a significant impact on our students continued learning and growth. So, MITS has decided to temporarily move our operations north to a Darwin Hub for Term 3. We have flown 15 staff, nine of their family members and our three Victorian students to Darwin. Our Victorian students (and their families back home) are excited for the opportunity to experience the richness of life and culture in the Northern Territory. All of us who travelled up have completed 14 days strict quarantine.

We’ve formed a terrific partnership to operate the Hub – both schooling and boarding – at the Michael Long Centre, operated by the AFL NT at Marrara Oval. All 21 of our Year 7 students have joined us at the hub – 100% retention of this cohort since the commencement of the 2020 school year. We think this is an extraordinary achievement in itself! We also have 12 alumni students living and learning from the hub, continuing their remote learning with their Melbourne Partner Schools, supported by MITS staff in-person here in Darwin. An additional 15 alumni will attend our Darwin Hub as day students (living with family members around Darwin). That’s a total of 48 students supported by MITS via our temporary hub.

To move the boarding and teaching operations of an entire school in a matter of a couple of weeks has been a monumental effort from our staff. However, we knew that the alternative – continuing with remote learning for another extended period of time – was simply not an option if we were putting our students’ best interests at heart. Most importantly, the feedback from our parents and students has been uniformly positive. They appreciate our continuing commitment to their children’s learning and wellbeing. We are really proud of the care, agility and courage MITS has shown in our establishment of our temporary Darwin Hub, and cannot wait to continue to watch our students grow!

Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) website

The Award presenters wish to acknowledge that Edward Tudor, Executive Director MITS, is a Board Member of IEBA and that his role did not have any impact on the judging process conducted jointly by ABSA and IEBA.