The transition from primary to secondary school is a tough one for many, but the transition from growing up in a remote community and going to boarding school can be a lot tougher.

Sean Hunter’s new book Home Away from Home is a guided story following how young Indigenous people transition from community to boarding for their education.

The illustrated story, aimed at young girls and their families, explores what the transition from Country and family to boarding and education is like, and sheds light on how to settle in to a home-away-from-home environment.

Mr Hunter is boarding manager at AFL Cape York House for Girls and has self-published the story based on his experience.

“There is a real apprehension toward what it’s going to be like to be away from family and away from country, and how to fit in,” Mr Hunter said.

“The book provides a visual representation of each stage, like choosing where to board, what happens when you arrive, and sharing your successes with family at home.”

AFL Cape York House for Girls provides educational, employment and training opportunities for indigenous females from Far North Queensland’s most remote communities as well as Torres Strait and Gulf Savannah.

The 45 students who board at the facility attend one of nine partnering secondary schools in Cairns.

“For kids who go to school locally, it’s hard to imagine what living away from home for around 270 days a year is like,” Mr Hunter said.

“Someone from the Torres Strait Islands has to catch two planes before they even get to Cairns where AFL Cape York House for Girls is.

“Then once they go to school, sometimes the population of the school itself is bigger than the entire region that they come from.”

AFL Cape York House for Girls career and transitions coordinator Helen Carter said she believed the story applied to many Indigenous boarding programs in Australia.

“Although (Home Away From Home) is written and illustrated from an AFL Cape York perspective the themes are most definitely interchangeable with other boarding programs across the country,” she said.

“It has the potential to become a useful resource for any future young female indigenous boarders.”

The 16-page book is illustrated by Jonas Dare, a Barngarla artist from South Australia who explores socio-cultural environment issues affecting Aboriginal people through digital media, photography, paint and film making.

Mr Hunter said the cultural connection Ms Dare provided through colour and illustration has “represented the experience perfectly”.

“I am of this country and I have a responsibility and an obligation to look after it, I do that through my art,” Ms Dare said.

“Our art is our jukurrpa, our songlines, our culture, our law, ourselves.”

All profits from the sale of Home Away From Home will go back to AFL Cape York House Foundation, to support future programs.

  • Story by Mia Burgess