January 21, 2015 Sydney’s Leumeah High School has a damn good idea

Leumeah High School, in Sydney’s outer south-west, is home to a program that sees Aboriginal students working together to develop a leading voice within the area.

In operation for nearly two years now, the school’s Aboriginal Representative Council, or ARC, is reaching out to young Aboriginal locals, helping them find ways to connect with and creatively explore their backgrounds.

With a variety of projects to their credit, including a mural out the front of their school and a bush tucker garden, these students are building a vibrant platform for sharing their cultural perspectives.

What is a council, anyway? To break it down, it’s a group of people who get together to discuss issues affecting a community that they belong to. During these conversations, which are conducted more or less formally, they come up with ideas for solving problems and making improvements.

Councils aim to represent their community as a whole, often speaking up for its interests within a larger social group. It’s part of the job of council members to listen to problems, ideas and questions brought to them by members of the community, and to display leadership in how they respond to this input.

Getting active around issues that affect you and your community can feel amazing – it’s empowering to trust your ideas enough to the share them with a group and work cooperatively to turn them into a reality. If you’re shy or think you’re no good at that sort of thing, trying it out with support from teachers can help you learn to become comfortable with putting your ideas out there and working through them collaboratively, as well as speaking up on behalf of others.

These are skills that are learned through practice, and working on them while you’re in high school means that you’ll have them ready to put into action when you leave.

A•STAR had a chat with some of Leumeah High’s ARC members to find out what they’ve been up to and what they get out of being involved. They spoke about the group’s role in supporting them in exploring their cultural backgrounds, as well as in developing creative ways to share aspects of their cultures with non-indigenous students at their school.

They also talked about the value of ARC in creating a useful network for local Aboriginal students that benefits not only those currently at their school, but also their younger peers who’ll be making the transition from primary to high school in the future.

By the sound of it, this group is onto something positive, powerful and sustainable.