Western Sydney breeds "champions"

An Emerton Catholic school in Western Sydney has won a national award for a family-school partnership program and indigenous reading program based on linking Aboriginal culture and literacy.

Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, announced the award which recognises and rewards excellence in schools across Australia and celebrates the achievements of teachers, principals and support staff.

The focus of Holy Family's award winning family-school partnership was the implementation of an indigenous reading program based on linking Aboriginal culture and literacy.

Called "Reading is Fun", the program was developed by an Indigenous teacher, with the assistance of Aboriginal education assistants. It aimed to improve student learning and enhance the partnership between indigenous families and Holy Family.

Principal of Holy Family, Sr Brenda Kennedy, said the school and parish community were thrilled with the win.

"Being a new school, there are so many initiatives we would like to undertake. This award money will help us to provide the students with something really special."

Executive Director of Schools in the Parramatta Diocese, Greg Whitby said the awards were a great achievement for a school which is only in its fourth year of operation.

At the core of the program involves Indigenous parents, guardians and families. Once a fortnight parents receive a "Reading is Fun" kit which includes a book, an audio CD recorded by a member of the community, a follow up activity and a game.

The children listen to the audio version of the text at home, then participate in an independent or shared reading of the text with a family member. The reading is followed by a guided discussion about the text led by a family member to facilitate comprehension and a greater understanding of Indigenous culture.

The program also involves parents visiting the school to lead small groups of Indigenous students through similar activities.

The home reading program achieved success in a range of areas including student attendance, reading performance, attitude to learning and engagement in learning activities.

In addition, the involvement of Indigenous families in educational and extra-curricular events and their interactions with the school community as a whole has improved.

Champions of the West

Meanwhile, Catholic Outlook reports that Parramatta Bishop Kevin Manning joined actor Bryan Brown to present awards at a North Richmond ceremony recognising "Champions of the West".

The event raises money for the San Miguel Family Centre in Richmond, a charitable work of the De La Salle Brothers under the auspices of BoysTown.

A Muslim pharmacist, Zuleyha Keskin was recognised for her contribution to interfaith dialogue while former Test cricketer Doug Walters was also recognised for service to sport.

The ministry of three Dominican Sisters at the San Miguel centre was also acknowledged: Srs Teresa Cathie, Dominica Conaghan and Marie Weeks.

Ms Keskin, a devout Muslim, said she hopes to dispel the "mind set" of ignorance and prejudice that can poison the body politic.

As an Australian-born Muslim woman living in the post-9/11 era she said she had to put aside the "quiet kid at school" who "hated getting up and speaking" and find her voice as a public speaker.

"To me interfaith dialogue is a way of building bridges and building relationships between people of different faiths. It gives them the opportunity to ask the questions they've always wanted to ask."

With her husband, Ahmet, Zuleyha has a son and a daughter. Her hope is that the Australian society her children will inherit "is more settled, more interactive with its citizens, and better able to deal with diversity and immigrants".

Holy Family School Media Release
Announcing the 2007 'Champions of the West' (Catholic Outlook, April 2007)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Holy Family Primary, Emerton
De La Salle Brothers | Boystown

30 Mar 2007