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South Grafton High School student and President of the Aboriginal Student Organisation (ASO) Tahlia O’Hara (R), pictured with fellow ASO member Madison Nicholl, wants to see an Aboriginal Academy program for female Indigenous students initiated at SGHS. Image: Contributed.

Academic idea for SGHS

Emma Pritchard|

As the President of the Aboriginal Student Organisation (ASO) at South Grafton High School (SGHS), Year 12 student Tahlia O’Hara is passionate and motivated on fulfilling her role, including initiating an Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students.

Despite two thirds of the Clarence Valley’s Indigenous students being enrolled at SGHS, there is currently only an Aboriginal Academy program in place for male Indigenous students.

Known as the Clontarf Foundation, the program aims to improve the education, self-esteem and employment opportunities for the students, and help them complete Year 12.

Inspired by the program’s success, it also prompted the seventeen-year-old to question why there isn’t a program in place for female Indigenous students.

And its something she is determined to introduce into the school’s curriculum.

Describing Indigenous girls of today as the Indigenous women of tomorrow, Tahlia is adamant the introduction of an Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students will improve attendance rates by stimulating enjoyment and interest in coming to school, offering additional support services including transport to and from school, classroom support, one on one mentoring with Indigenous elders, cultural connection and extracurricular activities.

After speaking with several female Indigenous students and learning of their overwhelming enthusiasm for her vision, Tahlia also spoke to staff members, including acting principal of SGHS Scott Barnier.

“They were all so supportive of having an Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students, and they said it was something they want and need,” Tahlia revealed, adding the program would also help to close the gender gap and provide equal educational opportunities for male and female Indigenous students at SGHS.

“I would like to see equal educational opportunities for all Indigenous students to get the education they need and deserve.

“Education increases their employability, decreases the risk of them being involved in domestic violence or ending up in prison, it keeps them off the streets and it helps them to make good decisions.

“It can make a real difference not only in their lives, but also in their families lives and in their community.

“All students should have the best education possible.”

Motivated by the positive feedback she received Tahlia is seeking additional support from the Clarence Valley community.

Recently, she prepared a petition and emailed more than 90 local businesses, seeking their interest as host locations.

At the time of publication, she had received more than 20 letters of support in response.

“Local businesses have been very welcoming and it’s really great that so many people are supportive of the program to be introduced at SGHS,” she said.

“I would really like to see the program at SGHS, the sooner the better I think.”

Tahlia also announced she will meet with Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis in the coming weeks to discuss taking her idea to State Parliament.

Anyone interested in signing Tahlia’s petition for an Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students at SGHS can do so at Southside Pharmacy, Masen’s Pharmacy, Farmer Lou’s in South Grafton, Deosa Wholefoods and Heart & Soul Wholefood Café in Grafton.

Local businesses interested in hosting Tahlia’s petition are welcome to contact Bob Carnaby on 0419 610 917.

Tahlia also wished to extend her sincere thanks and appreciation to participating local businesses.