TAFE NSW helps Kinchela boys reclaim their education

TAFE NSW is helping Uncles from Kinchela Boy’s Home Aboriginal Corporation in Redfern reclaim their education through a landmark literacy program. 

Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation was established by survivors of Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, a ‘home” run by the NSW Government for over 50 years to house Aboriginal boys forcibly removed from their families. 

Uncle Bobby attended the Kinchela Boy’s Home from 1954 to 1965. He says that his time in the Home was traumatic, and that he never really received a formal education. 

“I’m one of the ex-KBH boys, the Stolen Generation. When we first lived in the boy’s home our identity and culture were taken away from us and we were called by numbers. I was number 24 and my cousin was number 23,” Uncle Bobby said.

“We were punished regularly at the home, caned and forced to write a word 100 times from the blackboard even though our hands and bodies were aching from the cane. When I left, I still had very little education, so I went to work in the railways and then later as a driver for a freight company.”

In developing the literacy program, TAFE NSW and the Uncles from Kinchela worked together to build trust and identify personalised and collective goals. A strong component of the program has been integrating literacy activities with cultural and family history research to support the Uncles’ truth telling. Literacy teachers, Jill Finch and Sue Sim, work closely with Drew Roberts, a proud Bundjalung man and Cultural Education teacher to customise learning opportunities to suit each student’s literacy levels, needs and interests.

“This is much more than just a literacy program – it is a two-way learning experience. Each week we learn from the Uncles and their brave and honest life stories. They are teaching us to be better teachers.”

“We eased into the course by focusing strongly on culture, individual stories and building relationships. These themes have continued over time and have guided how we incorporate literacy activities to support students individually and as a group,” Sue said.

TAFE NSW Aboriginal Engagement Officer, Bobbie-Sue Wright, said the program has been extraordinarily successful at engaging the Uncles and helping them to change their perception of education.

“We knew that these Uncles had unfortunately had a negative experience with early schooling. This meant that we had to work to break down that barrier and encourage them to engage with education again,” Bobbie-Sue said.

“This program has built strong relationships and helped to bridge the gap between a westernised education and our community. This shows in the weekly attendance, where uncles and descendants were initially reluctant to come into the room, now they show up early ready to begin their learning for the day.”

Uncle Bobby says the program has completely changed his experience of education and increased his confidence in reading, writing, and spelling.

“In the past to get by I’ve mainly focussed on what people were saying at work and around me. I used to get frustrated because my wife and eldest boy would have to help me fill out forms and I’d like to be able to do that sort of thing by myself.”

“I’m really proud of what we have achieved here. I have learnt a lot and increased my ability in reading and writing and spelling, which has helped with my confidence. I really look forward to it each week and I’m so happy already with how far I’ve come.”

The successful program was recently awarded the Community Partnership Award at the TAFE NSW Gili Awards.

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