DP Travels 2500 km To Meet Students' Families

August 24, 2018

Downlands College Deputy Principal, Stephen Koch, has gone more than the ‘extra mile’ to meet his students’ families: recently travelling almost 2500kms to visit the remote hometown of the College’s Lockhart River boarders.

Mr Koch joined a group of 17 educators and corporate executives who spent four days in the far north Queensland community as part of a unique cultural immersion experience organised by Bond University.

“Downlands College has a strong connection with Lockhart River as the preferred secondary school for many of their students,” said Mr Koch, who will take on the role of Principal at Downlands College in 2019.

“Our Indigenous Liaison Officer works closely with their families, ensuring constant contact between College and home, and it was good for me to meet Lockhart State School’s Principal and Deputy Principal who provide essential transition preparation before the children leave home and in-community support to keep them on that secondary education pathway.

“My key takeaway from the visit, however, is the esteem in which the Lockhart River community holds Downlands College – not just as an education provider but for the work we are doing to guide their children through to employment and tertiary training.

“They are incredibly proud that Downlands graduate, Jennifer Hobson, is now in the second year of her Bachelor of Nursing. When she completes her training next year, Jennifer will become Lockhart River’s very first university graduate.

“The Bond University ‘Yarning Up’ experience was also really valuable in terms of the connections I’ve made with the University and with the business representatives in the group. These sorts of networks are fantastic for the College as we help all our students prepare for tertiary education and employment.”
Bond University’s annual Yarning Up experience has been operating since 2014, alternating remote community visits between Lockhart River and the Torres Strait Islands.

“The initial concept of Yarning Up was to give School Principals a first-hand experience of life in remote Indigenous communities so they could better understand the unique challenges students face when they transition to large secondary boarding schools in busy metropolitan and regional areas,” said Yarning Up co-host, Narelle Urquhart, who serves as Bond University’s Indigenous Cultural Support Officer.

“As such, it was a real privilege for us to have Mr Koch as part of our group this year and to see how strong partnerships like the Downlands/Lockhart River model can be so successful in closing the education gap for students from remote communities."

“We were also encouraged to see the positive changes happening in Lockhart River since Bond University first visited in 2014, with new houses being built by local people and new locally-owned businesses now operating – some of which have been mentored and financially supported by our previous Yarning Up corporate participants.”

Yarning Up is a previous winner of the Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award and the ATEM/Campus Review Award for Excellence in Community Engagement. Over the past 5 years, more than 40 educators and corporate executives have experienced life in Lockhart River or the Torres Strait Islands, with a number of participants visiting both communities.

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