Inner East Review
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

$10m for new Indigenous boarding house

Updated July 5 2022 - 11:25am, first published 5:00am
Boarding coordinator Josh Kyle with students Malakai Wright and Waylon Huddleston at the existing Church St boarding house. Photo: Morgan Hancock
Boarding coordinator Josh Kyle with students Malakai Wright and Waylon Huddleston at the existing Church St boarding house. Photo: Morgan Hancock

Around 100 Indigenous students from remote areas will be able to learn about life in the city while looking out over it when a new boarding house opens in Church St next year, funded by a $10 million federal government grant.

Most of the students - from the Northern Territory's Top End and rural Victoria - who are involved with the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School already live in three boarding houses on Richmond Hill.

However, a fourth house now under construction will allow for more residents. It will be purpose-built for them, with a firepit and yarning circle on the roof.

The transition school has signed a 40-year lease with the Anglican Church for the land and secured the $10m grant for the new building, designed by architects McIldowie Partners and being built by Kane Constructions, both at low cost.

Once it is open there will be space for 100 young people to live together on Richmond Hill in "a culturally strong and connected community", executive director Ed Tudor says, "even though in many cases they're a long way from their home and their country".

Tudor says the local community plays an important role in fostering the kids' sense of belonging - from the Richmond Junior Football Club to the Rowena Corner Store which bakes muffins for them and the neighbours who say 'hi' in the street.

Established by Tudor's parents, Liz and Rick Tudor, the school opened in 2016 as a 12-month transition program for Year 7 students from remote locations wanting to move into high school education in the city.

These days the school has 48 staff, dozens of volunteers from 13 partner schools, hundreds of donors and more than 80 students from more than 25 communities.

Although its program is not sport-related, the school has strong links with the Richmond Football Club, with its classroom hosted inside the club's Korin Gamadji Institute at Punt Rd Oval.

The school will have a place in the new William Cooper Centre the football club is building as part of a $65 million redevelopment of its grounds, which will enable it to expand the foundation program to cover Year 8 as well as Year 7.

Since the initial boarding house opened in The Vaucluse, two more have been set up for graduates of the Year 7 program who have continued into high school study at one of the range of private, Catholic and government partner schools, including Richmond High.

Recent success stories are two 2021 Year 12 graduates who returned to their communities -in Bairnsdale and the Victoria Daly region - and took up jobs as teaching aides.

Current student Malakai Wright from the Arnhem Land community of Ngukurr said he was enjoying his time in Melbourne, with the chance to go to AFL games a particular highlight.

The 13-year-old, who became involved with the transition school after his brother went through the program, said he would like to be a professional sportsman.

"But if that doesn't work out I might go home, find a job and just do things I like, like play basketball, footy and rugby," he said.


Jenny Denton


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