The Moondani Toombadool Centre at Swinburne University of Technology has enabled Girls Academy to continue their work in education through the purchase of 60 new telephone contracts.

Swinburne supplied the contracts to Girls Academy Development Officers which will enable them to keep in contact with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls participating in Girls Academy, supporting them through their schooling.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the face-to-face delivery of the Girls Academy program,” said Vicky Peters, Manager of Indigenous Student Services at the Moondani Toombadool Centre.

“The Moondani Toombadool Centre is delighted to be able to fund the purchase of mobile phone plans to enable Development Officers to check-in regularly with the girls to ensure they are staying safe, managing mentally and physically, and continuing with their education.”

Development Officer Madonna Humbert is based at Aldridge Girls Academy in Queensland.

Through Swinburne’s donation, Humbert has been able to maintain strong relationships with the girls during COVID-19.

“I case manage our enrolled Indigenous high school girls from Years 7 to 12. My role is to mentor and support our girls, either at school or remotely to encourage them to stay engaged in their education as much as possible,” Humbert said.

“More so when COVID-19 … started, we were instructed to work from home … I didn’t have a work phone. The best I could do was use my home computer and the only way I could remain in contact with my students was through email or I’d have to rely on my Program Manager to send text messages through her work phone sometimes, just so I could encourage the girls with their online learning.”

The contracts through the Moondani Toombadool Centre were a huge help for Humbert and her girls.

“When I received the phone, it was a lot easier to communicate with the girls, even just to be able to text them as some kids prefer to text. It really did take a lot of pressure off myself and my Program Manager,” Humbert said.

“Since COVID-19 started, one student in particular had been hard to stay connected with, but she reached out to me via text on my work phone after hours, and that would not have happened if I didn’t have that phone.”

With schools in Queensland resuming physical attendance on Monday, Humbert said the phones have been instrumental in adapting to remote learning and now transitioning the girls back to school.

“I’ve seen the benefits firsthand of having this phone and being able to stay connected with our girls and their families, especially during COVID-19, and now I am supporting their transition back into school as well,” she said.

“Thank you to Swinburne University for supplying the phones and once again, thank you to Girls Academy for giving me the opportunity to support our girls.”

Humbert, a mother of six and someone who didn’t have the opportunity to finish her high schooling, took on her position with Girls Academy in July 2019. She described the role as her dream job.

“I feel it is my duty and a privilege to be given the opportunity to mentor our young Indigenous girls. Mainly because looking back at myself as a young mum at 16, I did not realise the importance of education or connecting with my cultural identity at that time,” she said.

“My schooling ended in Year 10, but throughout my personal and professional life, I’ve managed to raise six wonderful children … my four older children have all graduated Year 12, and I have two (twin) boys currently in Year 11.

“I’ve always encouraged my children [and taught them] that education is important, and I will continue to teach that same value to our future young Indigenous women.”

As well as supplying the much-needed phone contracts, the Moondani Toombadool Centre is also supporting Girls Academy through online workshops.

“We are also supporting live online workshops for Girls Academy students during the pandemic. These workshops will be facilitated by 2019 NAIDOC Sportswoman of the Year, Shantelle Thompson, and focus on resilience, self-motivation, overcoming hurdles and the skills needed to study at home,” Peters said.

By Rachael Knowles