Gawura – an inner-city Indigenous school – is transforming lives

More than 14 years ago, a new all-Indigenous Kindergarten to Year 6 independent school began its operations within St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD, with the aim of rectifying, at least within its walls, the outrageous educational disadvantage of Indigenous Australians.

The unique school, Gawura, paved the way for dozens of Indigenous students to achieve at a level equal to their non-Indigenous Australian peers.

In 2020, this unique model of education was acknowledged as the best in Australia at the Australian Education Awards, winning the top award of Australian School of the Year. One judge commented that the school is “a lighthouse program in Indigenous education with wonderful, almost unheard of, outcomes”.

So how has Gawura done it? How does a school manage to achieve such good outcomes in the education of disadvantaged Indigenous Australians? Key to the school’s student success stories are:

· Consultation with the school’s Indigenous co-founders and mentors, who ensure the Gawura education program is authentic and meets the needs of families.

· Full scholarships which cover all education expenses begin from Kindergarten, to ensure that no education gap occurs.

· An intensive numeracy and literacy program in primary school, with very high teacher-to-student ratios.

· Partnership and strong levels of communication with students’ families.

· Dedicated Gawura school bus that collects students from their home each morning and also drops them home every afternoon.

· Dedicated Indigenous cultural program, including the teaching of Wiradjuri language, and On-Country excursions, as well as an on-site elder in residence.

· Ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and support staff.

· All Kindergarten to Year 6 Gawura students join their St Andrew’s Cathedral School peers for performing arts, sport and co-curricular activities, ensuring a smooth transition into Year 7 at St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

· In-house Indigenous mentors and education support staff available to secondary students.

· Generous school donors and sponsors who help pay for the education costs of all students from Kindergarten to Year 12.

“I am so proud to lead this exceptional school,” said the Head of Gawura, John Ralph, a proud Gumbaynggirr man.

“Students receive outstanding opportunities to reach their potential at a highly resourced independent school and attain results well beyond national averages for Indigenous students. Not only are the students enjoying and thriving at school here, the families are also benefitting as they partner in the growth and success of their children, who are learning to be immensely proud of their heritage.”

“We know the Gawura model works.” – Ray Minniecon

Pastor Ray Minniecon, a Founder of Gawura, said the school is going from strength to strength: “I am very envious of today’s Gawura students who are able to learn an Indigenous language at school – it was unheard of in my day!”

“We know the Gawura model works; we know it needs adjusting from time to time but we have confidence in the results and outcomes we have already achieved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – an exclusive and positive educational learning experience.”

Every year, Gawura reaches out to the local inner Sydney community to attract families who wish for their pre-schooler to have the opportunities offered at Gawura and St Andrew’s Cathedral School. Watch this video for more information on the opportunities available.

To be offered a scholarship at Gawura, the following factors are considered: a child’s school readiness, a family’s commitment to being part of the school, acceptance of the Christian values taught at the school, a child’s particular needs and evidence of disadvantage and Aboriginal heritage.

Gawura is currently inviting applications for full scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children starting in Kindergarten 2022 (applications for other years also encouraged).

For further information, please visit our site or call Chandra Kennedy on 02 9286 9664.

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