31 March 2024

Boarding strategy aims to bridge educational gap

| Chisa Hasegawa
Students sit in formation to spell out CYLP

CYLP sends Indigenous students across Cape York to leading boarding schools, a strategy the organisation says assists with educational disparity. Photo: Supplied.

A program providing scholarships to remote Indigenous students on Cape York says it is doing its part to close the educational gap.

Ensuring that students are reaching their full learning potential (Outcome 5) is one of the targets of the National Closing the Gap Agreement.

The latest Closing the Gap data shows only five out of 19 targets for First Nations Australians are on track, with Outcome 5 showing improvement but, unfortunately, not on track to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attaining year 12 or equivalent qualification to 96 per cent by 2031.

The education, health, security, employment, housing and life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are monitored by the Productivity Commission, and where these outcomes between the two cultural groups are different is described as the gap.

The Cape York Leaders Program (CYLP) has been working to close the education gap for almost two decades, awarding Indigenous students throughout the Cape with scholarships to Queensland’s leading boarding schools.

CYLP manager Rhys Hollo-Russell said the boarding program currently supported 110 students through their journey to high school graduation.

“We are in our nineteenth year, and the program has been responsible for hundreds of students changing the course of their lives through education,” Mr Hollo-Russell said.

“CYLP is the only scholarship provider that works exclusively with Indigenous students from remote and regional Cape York communities.

“We provide an incredibly comprehensive scholarship and ensure students have dedicated support officers in the location they attend boarding school.”

CYLP has 13 partner schools across Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Brisbane, and much of the support efforts lie in the transition period.

“[When] students join CYLP when they are in year 6, they have usually grown up in a community from regional and remote Queensland, where life moves at a different pace,” Mr Hollo-Russell said.

“It is important that we remember these young people may have never flown before, may not have stayed away from family, and may have never visited a city bigger than Cairns.

“While CYLP has been successful in maintaining above 90 per cent completion rate, it is due to the wrap-around support of our student support officers, the dedication of our partner schools and their staff, and the tenacity the young leaders show in setting off on their education adventure far from home in a very different environment.”

Mr Hollo-Russell said CYLP was “very active” in the Cape York communities to adequately support families and students throughout the entire process.

“CYLP has been successful, as we ensure families and students have support through every stage of the education journey – by providing information sessions, meet and greets, orchestrating partner school and student interviews and ensuring students attend their orientation events often with their parent or guardian along,” he said.

“[This year], we have visited Cooktown, Hope Vale and Coen, and will hold information sessions in Aurukun, Pormpuraaw and Mossman as well.”

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