In January this year a new school opened in Melbourne; it became home to 22 Indigenous girls and boy from far-north Northern Territory and Victoria.
Executive Director of the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) Edward Tudor says the school was a long time coming.
"We first started talking about this concept, this transition school, about nine years ago and have been working towards it since then," he tells NITV.
The school is intentionally kept small, with the maximum capacity being 22 students, so it can provide a homely environment and so the staff can support each child's individual needs.
The school is focused on providing support for each individual so they can find their identity and figure out who they are and how they fit into the community.
"They can feel strong about who they are even if they're 4000 km away from home," Mr Tudor says.
The idea for the school developed after Tudor and his team talked to Indigenous parents in communities over the years. Parents said they wanted the best educational opportunities for their kids and often saw the best education being in places like Melbourne.
“Experience has shown us that often the step from a remote or regional community into a big Melbourne school can be a really, really hard step. Occasionally extraordinary kids can do it, but very often it’s too hard," Mr Tudor says.
With that knowledge they developed the idea of a transition school to support kids through one year at the beginning of their secondary education. Kids then step into mainstream schools after a year of transitioning into city life.
The school provides numeracy and literacy from a year 7 curriculum program. It is a very, very targeted program based on the individual levels of the kids.
“Beyond the academic side of things it’s really about cultural strength and cultural safety and making sure that we’re providing kids with a safe environment where they can feel really strong in exploring their own identity," Mr Tudor says.
The boarding side of the school offers after-school and weekend activities. There are five Indigenous teachers who particularly focus on cultural things like learning about the Dreaming and commemorating Indigenous leaders.
“It really is about that holistic support of the individual and their identity and all of those questions that many year 7s would be asking themselves," Mr Tudor says.
In addition to school and boarding seven female students and some of the boys are playing for the Richmond junior footy club. They all play in the under-15 leagues for their local football club. The oval for home games is about 500 metres from where they live.
“They arrive at the field and they know all of their teammates, and their parents and they feel very much a part of a community and they feel supported by that whole community, not just by the school," Mr Tudor explains.
“It prepares our kids for those next years and beyond when they’re out in the mainstream Melbourne schools where some of these kids might be their classmates.”
The school's Executive Director says the football community provides an important opportunity for two-way learning between his kids and the non-indigenous kids who play in the same teams. His students are learning lots about other Melbourne kids and they are learning about the Indigenous kids.
The school's only been open for a few months but it seems to already be changing the lives of Indigenous kids.