Once a month, 150 students from five Perth highs schools come together to take part in a mentoring program where they are empowered with the skills, knowledge, connections and resources they require to be advocates for reconciliation within their school and community.
This meeting of the minds is part of the Indigenous Communities Education and Awareness Foundation’s program, Marja Mob.
The Marja Mob program aims to keep participating students engaged in school by helping them form bonds with students from other schools.
With the success of the program in Perth, ICEA recently announced they would be starting a Marja Mob program in Broome.
Marja Mob mentor Marlee Hutton says that, as a Broome local, she could see ICEA establishing a large presence in the Broome community.
“The program will be great in Broome because they need something to keep kids interested and engaged in school,” Ms Hutton says.
She says she hopes the participants will want to create their own paths by overcoming barriers and stereotypes.
“Programs like this give youth the power to step up and be members in their community,” Ms Hutton says.
“I want them to be open about sharing their culture with other people and recognise that their knowledge is the key to closing the gap.”
Ms Hutton says she loves inspiring the participants and has big dreams for the future of the Marja Mob program.
“I just feel so good inside when I see that I’m doing something for other people and I’m really giving back to them,” Ms Hutton says.
“When you’re a part of ICEA there is a sense of community and a sense of belonging.”
Year 12 student Tegan Bedford said cultural awareness was important, especially because it was not taught in depth at school.
“We have guest speakers come in and tell their stories,” Tegan said.
“We get to learn all about culture and history in different places through the activities we do with ICEA.”
She said Marja Mob was fun, educational and a good way to meet new people.
“We never really used to get involved with other schools but now we have lots of friends from all around,” she said.
Tegan said she would love to follow in Ms Hutton’s footsteps and become an ICEA mentor.
Head of the boarding house, Joan Easton, said the school’s relationship with ICEA had been very positive.
“The greatest value of the program is that the Indigenous students are encouraged to invite a non-Indigenous friend to attend,” she said.
Ms Easton said the concept of inclusivity was the most valuable aspect of her school’s relationship with ICEA.
“It allows different cultures to come together and provides an opportunity to meet new friends and to socialise with old ones,” she said.
Photo: Matilda Cunningham