Within the heritage listed Lockington House in Melbourne, students from remote and regional Australia prepare for their school day.
What began as a family conversation soon grew into the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS), home to 22 Indigenous students wishing to access secondary education.
Executive Director, Edward Tudor, left his job as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer to help his parents, Liz and Rick Tudor, establish MITS for 12 months — that was four years ago.
‘Mum first went to Gunbalanya in 1973 as a veterinary graduate,’ says Edward Tudor.
‘She and dad returned around 2002 and have, over the past 15 years, built strong connections through Western Arnhem Land.’
‘Mum runs an annual dog health program through her role as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and dad established a partnership between Gunbalanya and Trinity Grammar School, where he was headmaster for 15 years.’
‘As they visited Western Arnhem Land, mum and dad found they were frequently approached by people who wanted their help to find great educational opportunities for their children in Melbourne.’
‘My sister Meg, who has lived in remote Nganmarriyanga with her family for the past 8 years, was also a part of the conversation.’
Taking an approach that is ‘agile, flexible and responsive’ to the needs of individual students is vital says Mr Tudor.
While Indigenous staff makes up 55% of the low staff to student ratio, 30 registered volunteers, parents and community are also closely involved.
‘We always chaperone our students to and from their homes and we fly their parents to Melbourne at the start and end of each year,’ says Mr Tudor.
‘All of this is funded through ABSTUDY.’
‘It allows us to understand our students and families better, enables our parents to know and trust us, and demonstrates that we value and support our students’ home lives.’
‘We also understand the power of having Indigenous people working with our students who have personal experience of the challenges and potential rewards of studying away from home,’ says Mr Tudor.
The residence has built a warm and homely space, including a fire pit inspired by Wiltja Residence in Adelaide, to serve as a relaxing meeting place between the boys’ and girls’ residences.
The Pathways Team works in close collaboration with graduates and 10 partner schools that provide scholarships to graduates at the end of their MITS year.
Mr Tudor wants to see graduates go on to study at university, run local businesses and represent their communities on councils, panels and in government
‘I hope that — through MITS — we might see a more reconciled Australia, where Indigenous people experience greater empowerment and its non-Indigenous people have a deeper understanding of their fellow Indigenous Australians.’