The Cape York Girl Academy based at Wangetti Beach in Queensland is giving young Indigenous mothers a second chance at education.
“Without schools like ours, it can be the end of the road for some girls.”
“And without an education, quality of life is stifled,” said Jessa Rogers.
Miss Rogers is the Principal of Girl Academy; a full-time boarding school for Indigenous mothers and their babies.
She fell pregnant at just 16 years of age and realised the importance of education.
Her academy is the first of its kind in Australia, and Queensland’s only boarding school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“At the moment, we have 14 girls living inside the boarding house plus 4 babies,” said Miss Rogers.
The school can hold up to 20 students; including 10 mums and bubs and 10 non-parenting students.
Seventeen-year-old Rexlyn Gordon is part of a ‘preventative cohort,’ made up of young girls avoiding pregnancy.
Rexlyn says Girl Academy has given her a second chance at life.
“Without it, I would have just been at home with nothing to do, just fixing cars ... Girl Academy has been a lifeline."
“I’d like to try and live my life first before I have a baby," she said.
According to Miss Rogers, teenage pregnancy is one of the most common reasons for girls dropping out of school.
In fact, Indigenous mothers are around six times more likely to be teenage mothers compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Girl Academy student Keira Roberts had her son at the age of 16. She didn’t have a permanent place to call home, and said life as a teenage mother was difficult.
“The Academy has dramatically changed my life because I get to come back and finish my education while my son grows up around other children,” she said.
While Keira attends class, her son is cared for in the schools Early Learning Centre where one baby is currently learning English for the first time.
Nursing facilities are also provided – 24 hours per day - by registered Indigenous health workers.
“We even have an optometrist come out to check all the girls’ eyes,” said Miss Rogers.
Beyond the classroom, students have access to a games room, commercial kitchen, library, basketball court, swimming pool and on-site café.
Girl Academy is available for to all Indigenous girls aged between 12 and 17, who are pregnant or have a child up to 2 years of age.