Indigenous Academies go from strength to strength

Established in 2006, the AFL Western Sydney Indigenous Academies have provided one-on-one mentoring to over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in seven Western Sydney high schools in 2018.

A far cry from teaching the teenagers to play footy, the students receive specialised education sessions, additional in-class support as well as after-school health and well-being programs with a goal to increase school attendance rates, increase the number of Year 12 graduates and transition the students into full-time study or work.

The Academies are achieving some great results. Students who attend the Academies program are also attending school 80% of the time, compared to other Aboriginal students not in the Academies who attend school only 70.5% of the time.

Over the past 12 years, the AFL Western Sydney Indigenous Academies have supported over 1,700 students with 245 taking part in the program this year.

AFL NSW/ACT Western Sydney Indigenous Academies Manager, Candice Bell says the programs are all about enriching the lives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

“The Indigenous Academies are a program to support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students to take control of their future,” says Bell.

“We have programs that are focused on providing in-school and after-school support. We deliver mentoring programs and interactive programs whether they are sport, education, well-being or culture and identity based.”

A staggering number of students involved in the AFL Western Sydney Indigenous Academies in the Campbelltown and Blacktown regions, are making the leap into education or employment, at a rate of 95% post-high school. This is an extraordinary feat as only 25% of Aboriginal people aged 15 years or older, have completed Year 12 in the Blacktown region.

One school in particular, Rooty Hill High School, had eight students who had been involved with the Indigenous Academies, successfully complete their HSC in 2016. From these students, four were accepted into university, while the other four went on to securing traineeships and/or employment. This was the most successful outcome for Indigenous students in the school’s history.

Sarah Redfern High School in Minto also had ten Indigenous students graduate in 2017, with six of these students accepted into in the Western Sydney University Alternative Entry Program.

Rooty Hill High School student, Lindsay Christian says the best part is having the opportunity to socialise with his friends at school, and with Indigenous Academies Coordinators, Matthew Keevil-Scott and Sharna Crofts.

“We get free food, play lots of game, learn about our culture and paint pictures,” says Christian.

“It has a good vibe and it should happen more than once a week.”

Korben Smith, a student also from Rooty Hill High School says he has learnt many things about his culture since he began attending the Indigenous Academies in Year 7.

“I’ve learned [about] a few Indigenous games like Marn Grook, which is like AFL, and about different Indigenous elders that have shaped our culture and identity today,” Smith said.

Year 10 student, Taylan Dinclik shared the same sentiment, saying that the Indigenous Academies helped him to understand his background on a deeper level.

“We learn things we wouldn’t get taught at home and things that happened with our history,” says Dinclik.

Ultimately, the Indigenous Academies are not only empowering the next generation through education, but also providing a welcoming environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to understand who they are.

To learn more about the AFL Western Sydney Indigenous Academies, please contact Charlee-Sue Frail on

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