• Vincentia High School student Shakeela Williams, (NITV News)Source: NITV News
A group of teachers, students and parents slam the government’s Gonski cuts, and take to Canberra to ensure that the positive outcomes like that of Shakeela Williams are accessible to all Indigenous students.
Rachael Hocking

3 Feb 2016 - 5:03 PM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2016 - 6:41 PM

Shakeela Williams is a Year 12 student with big goals of becoming a speech pathologist or an occupational therapist.

She says the mentoring and support from her school, Vincentia High School in Jervis Bay, has allowed her to not just pass her subjects – but excel.

“If it wasn't for the Aboriginal department here at school I don’t think I would be here."

“I think that I would've lost faith in what I'm doing long ago,” Shakeela said.

Shakeela says that beyond help with her schoolwork, Vincentia High offers "culturally appropriate" spaces.

As an Indigenous student from an Aboriginal community, Shakeela says it can be hard going to a school that doesn’t understand where she comes from.

“People aren’t really exposed to the non-Indigenous communities, so having someone there from the community helping us, and encouraging us, and telling us it’s going to be alright really helps us to achieve,” she said.


Gonski success story

Shakeela’s experience represents an example of a "positive Gonski story," according to a group of teachers and educators that met with Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Wednesday in Canberra.

Speaking to reporters, the group highlighted the need to address education achievement gaps for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The Australian Education Union President, Correna Haythorpe, says there is a "very real benefit of Gonski funding" for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

"If we’re serious about closing the education gap, then our very strong message to the politicians here, especially our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is that we have to close the gap in resources,” she said.

Eli Cook, an Aboriginal Education Officer at Ballina Public School in northern New South Wales, says the funding has made a huge difference at the school.

“With the funding we’ve been able to deliver comprehensive transition for our kindergarten students.

“We’re able to employ more aids within the classroom, Aboriginal Education workers in the school,” Mr Cook said.

Leon Brown is also an Aboriginal Education Officer who works closely with Shakeela’s school.

He said Gonski funding was essential to allow Aboriginal communities to engage with children and transfer knowledge.

“This process itself is essential to support the educational components underneath a western system."

“Bilingual language processes allow our children to learn both their culture, but also western science,” Mr Brown said.

While the group that met with the Minister say that he was receptive to their cause, he made no promises that Gonski funding would continue.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is refusing to pledge money first for schools and then seek results later.

For a second day, Mr Turnbull continued his attacks on Labor's ‘unfunded and undeliverable’ education policy.