Follow the Dream brings together WA Aboriginal students to learn about culture, health, education and to celebrate the endless opportunities available after school.

Seventy Follow the Dream students from Sevenoaks, Belmont and Mount Lawley, gathered together at St Catherine’s College in Perth on February 15 as part of the Djerabiny Djin-Djin Koolangkas (Happy Good Spirit Youth) workshop. The workshop focused on strengthening mental well-being and leadership in Aboriginal students and was a joint project between the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation and the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA).

Chief Executive of AHCWA, Des Martin, said it was a special chance to bring together senior Indigenous students.

“It’s great to have the students all in one location and to offer them the opportunity to develop their social skills and encourage leadership development, cultural connection, healthy relationships and personal development. It is always a pleasure working with and for our communities, and with such inspiring and motivated young Indigenous people,” Martin said.

Senior Program Manager at the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, Brad Goodlet explained that there were two main reasons behind the program.

“One is about doing something at the beginning of the year that inspires and fires up the students … It focuses them on senior years of school and sets the scene for the year,” Goodlet said.

“Secondly, and more importantly, whilst our students are aspirational, they are also students, who like many other young people their age, deal with issues around their own health and well-being. We thought it would be great for this event to focus on how the Foundation can help with that.”

The workshop covered issues such as how to look after yourself, how to cope with stress, how to support friends, how to cope with expectations, and how to manage social media.

It began with a traditional Welcome to Country by Uncle Terry “Koodah” Cornwall, which involved a Smoking Ceremony, followed by three sessions exploring strategies to encourage students to become strong, healthy leaders.

“[Uncle Terry] got the kids into a circle and talked. This part of day was about traditional learning, culture, history and traditional ways. He focused on the importance of culture and maintaining that strong connection of where you’ve come from and the land and country you’re on,” Goodlet said.

“One fantastic observation someone made during the workshop, was that it was probably the first time in these kids’ educational experience—some have been to school for 12 years—where they were in a learning situation where everyone was around them was Aboriginal. That’s really powerful,” Goodlet said.

“It’s critical these young people take advantage of what’s around them … Follow the Dream doesn’t direct a young person down a particular path, it’s there to support the whatever they want to do.”

AHCWA and Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation hope the workshop will continue as an annual event, and that future workshops might also extend into regional areas of WA.

By Rachael Knowles