An official ground breaking ceremony has signalled a new chapter in the history of St Catherine’s College as work gets underway on new custom-designed accommodation for Indigenous students.
The funding for the building project was announced last year under the Federal Government’s National Partnership on Remote Housing and significantly expands the Indigenous access program Dandjoo Darbalung at The University of Western Australia’s affiliated college.
Dandjoo Darbalung established in 2012, has achieved very successful results with a 90 per cent retention rate and a 78 per cent pass rate.
The new accommodation was designed following consultation with current Indigenous students and once it is at capacity, will become one of the largest tertiary residential programs of this type in Australia.
The accommodation supports interaction between year groups and aims to act like a family home with strong peer-to-peer support.
Barry McGuire, a Balladong Nyoongar man and ambassador of the program, said the housing facility would help support students who travelled from remote communities to study at university.
“This purpose-built accommodation will provide a balanced space for Aboriginal ways of life and learning. From this we will see many prosperous professionals come and stand in all walks of life and proudly represent our people,” he said.
“This is a major boost to education and employment outcomes for young Indigenous people and helps make the transition to university so much easier.”
Dandjoo Darbalung, which means ‘mixing together’ in the way fresh and salt water mix in the Swan estuary, was established at St Catherine’s College in 2012 to create a program to support Indigenous students with their tertiary studies while encouraging and nurturing their cultural identity.
Will Fong a second year Commerce student from Broome and a current resident at St Catherine’s has found the support of the program invaluable.
“One of the most difficult things about leaving home is not knowing how things work at university or in Perth. Dandjoo Darbalung made it easy to find friends and has helped me have a strong start to university,” Mr Fong said.
Billie Kickett-Morris, a Nyoongar woman who graduated from Medicine at UWA in December said she liked the community focus of the program.
“I come from a big Aboriginal family so living here as part of a supportive community made it easier for me to focus on my studies,” she said.
“The Dandjoo Darbalung program encourages us culturally which has made the transition to university so much easier.
The accommodation is due to be operational by the start of semester one in 2019.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229