OFF COUNTRY will follow the lives of six young Indigenous students as they leave their families and communities to spend a year boarding at one of the oldest and most elite boarding schools in the country, Geelong Grammar. From inside the boarding house, on the sports field and in the classroom we will capture the highs and lows of the school year. Wrestling with their conflicting identities as they move between boarding school life and home life, OFF COUNTRY will create a historic record of one of Australia’s key Indigenous education pathways and a complex portrait of what it is to be an Indigenous child in Australia today.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
At a national level, Year Nine Indigenous students are on average 3 years behind non-Indigenous in numeracy, 3.4 years behind in reading, and 4.2 years behind in writing. Reducing this disparity is a vital part of Australia’s Closing The Gap policy, but targets are not being met.
Only 24% of kids living in remote Indigenous communities have access to a school that takes them up to Yr 12. Boarding schools are seen by many as a positive alternative and every year over 3000 Indigenous kids leave their families and communities to attend boarding schools in the city. What is this experience like for them? From diverse locations and circumstances, we follow the journeys of these children as they leave home to attend boarding school and navigate this momentous shift in their lives, creating an opportunity for them to share the stories of the unique issues they face as Indigenous young people in Australia today.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
We want this film to shine a light on the issue of Indigenous Education in all its forms. While the film looks in depth at one key education pathway, it also opens up a bigger conversation around all the possible ways to improve educational outcomes for all Indigenous youth, no matter where they live. Rarely given an opportunity to share their unique perspective and experience, the film will allow Indigenous young people to tell us first-hand about the reality of the choices they face.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
In the short term, we hope that this film creates a shift in the level of understanding of the lives of Indigenous people. We would like the audience to leave the cinema with a greater awareness of the complexity of issues facing Indigenous youth, the diversity of their circumstances and experiences and the unique challenges they face growing up Indigenous in Australia today.
In the medium to longer term we would hope this increased awareness would lead to a shift in attitudes across education in all its forms in Australia, whether this be supporting scholarship programs, focusing on strengthening education within Indigenous communities and rethinking the syllabus available to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students regarding Indigenous and Australian history and culture.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
We hope the film will shine a light on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and encourage conversation as well as action. We would hope seeing the intimate portrayal of the issues and barriers facing these young people, and the various ways educators can respond to these challenges, would offer real life case studies to strengthen the understanding of teachers and educators, policy makers, parents and Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids. Through educational guides teachers can take the film into classrooms. Educators can create screenings for their teaching teams focusing on cultural awareness and best practice. Interest groups can take the discussion to the media and social media and engage more deeply with experts and commentators.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We are working with YALARI, an Indigenous scholarship organisation founded and directed by Indigenous man Waverley Stanley. We will feature the work of Waverley and YALARI in the film.
We are also working with GEELONG GRAMMAR SCHOOL and have developed a relationship with the school over the past 12 months to be able to tell the stories of their willing students and teachers within the schooling and boarding environment.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
1. Host a screening of the film.
2. Teachers downloading and using teaching resources and study guides, such as ATOM.
3. Deeper engagement with Indigenous education policy across government, educators, parents and students.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
We would imagine, and hope, that this film will ignite debate across all audiences, the national media and social media. Measuring the impact of this “conversation” can be achieved by engaging a social media analysis company to follow the breadth and depth of coverage.
While there is diverse opinion regarding issues of Indigenous Education there is no consensus and much room for change and improvement, whether this be improving the quality and availability of education in rural and remote parts of the country, improving opportunities for scholarship programs or making changes to the Australian curriculum to greater reflect Indigenous history, culture and perspective.