SACS and Gawura take one large step towards reversing the educational disadvantage of Indigenous students

15 September 2015

On Friday 18 September, five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will complete their nine-year journey at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. The five are the first graduates from the original intake of students who began at Gawura School for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – the school within the walls of St Andrew’s that caters exclusively for Indigenous students from K – 6 living in the inner city areas of Sydney.

Five of the original students who began Year 4 at Gawura in 2007 will now complete their HSC and graduate from St Andrew’s – a testament to their persistent hard work and the school’s dedication to supporting the needs of Indigenous students. Their graduation is an enormous achievement for them and also fulfils part of the vision of Gawura – to provide an engaging and culturally relevant educational experience for its students that will see them complete Year 12 and be well prepared for further study or employment.

Pastor Ray Minniecon, the Ambassador to Gawura and a St Andrew’s Cathedral School council member, was one of the founders of the Indigenous school. He said the achievement of these students was a fabulous testament to the success of Gawura.

“It was a Gawura student that gave me the greatest wisdom and insight into our efforts to provide quality education,” he said. “She told me that a ‘good education is about providing you with choice’. She said that ‘with a good education, I can make the choices necessary for me to lead a fulfilling life and to help my community do the same.’ I couldn't have said it more clearly.”

The students, who began their journey at Gawura and are graduating from Year 12 this year are: Twins Rachel and Georgia Durmush, Kelsi Smith, Brock Kinchela-Packer and Taylor-Jane Naylor-Taggart (pictured). All five are keen to pursue university study, with Brock also considering a career as a policeman.

Twins Rachel and Georgia Durmush, from Peakhurst, said they are so thankful for the quality education and the opportunities St Andrew’s and Gawura have provided for them. “I love SACS – there are such strong teacher/student relationships here,” Georgia said. “The teachers are amazing and so keen to see students succeed; having their support has made a huge impact. The school really helped shape who I am. I hope to start a BA in psychology at Sydney University next year.”

Rachel agreed. “SACS has provided so much support to all the Gawura students. The fact that the school embraces and celebrates Indigenous culture has enabled us to learn more about our culture and express ourselves," she said. "It has really encouraged us and made us feel proud of our culture. At other schools, we may have been bullied, but at SACS we always had support and felt part of the community. Next year, I hope to study law at UTS.”

Brock Kinchela-Packer said it has been a long journey made possible by the ongoing support of the teachers and staff at Gawura and St Andrew’s.

“Gawura gave me a great start and (Head of Gawura) Mr North taught me a lot about the importance of school and education,” he said. “The staff here reached out to me and it wasn’t left up to me to go and ask for help. They really wanted me to do well and they made sure I was on track, and that made it more enjoyable."

Kelsi Smith hopes to study social science at Macquarie University. "The best part about coming here has been the people, my friends and Mr North," she said. "You get more support here than you would at other schools."

Taylor-Jane Naylor-Taggart says her time at SACS/Gawura has been enriching and rewarding. "It has been extremely supportive and hands-on. I've built strong relationships with my Gawura peers and the school has provided great opportunities," she said. "But mainly it's the people that make the school so special."

About Gawura School

Gawura was established in 2007 as part of St Andrew’s Cathedral School’s effort to reverse the overwhelming educational disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children which exists across the whole country. Students usually begin their journey in Kindergarten at Gawura and transition into St Andrew’s Cathedral School for their secondary education.

All Kindergarten to Year 12 student places are independently funded by the generosity of private foundations, local business and the broader community, including families and individuals. Gawura scholarships are not subsidised in any way by St Andrew’s Cathedral School student fees. Each year, full scholarships are issued to four new Kindergarten students from the local Indigenous community. The school endeavours to support these students’ 13-year journey through Gawura (K – 6) and St Andrew’s Cathedral School (Years 7-12).

For more information, go to Gawura's website:

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