All the children

19 Sep 2012   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development   |   Australia

Tags:  Indigenous Australia, education, school   |   1 comment

Beatrice Sheen, Founding Principal of Jarjum College

As published in Caritas News No 130, Spring 2012, pg 10

One of Caritas Australia’s newest partners is Redfern Jarjum College, a Jesuit Catholic primary school for vulnerable Aboriginal children of Redfern in Sydney’s inner-city. Beatrice Sheen, Founding Principal, is looking forward to the school’s opening later this year or early 2013.

Redfern Jarjum College has a mission: to educate urban Aboriginal children who are not participating or coping in mainstream primary schools. And this mission is close to the heart of Aboriginal Gamilaroi woman, Beatrice.

With an Aboriginal father and a mother with an Irish background, Beatrice grew up wondering just whereabouts she fits in. For 25 years, she suppressed her Aboriginality – just like her father – but Beatrice is now very proud of her ancestry.

For most of her life, she has lived in Mount Druitt; however her connection to Redfern goes back to her birthplace in Crown Street, Sydney. The Gadigal people are custodians and traditional owners of the area where Redfern Jarjum College and Crown Street are both situated.

With a background in education, six children, seven grandchildren and currently completing a Masters in Religious Education, Beatrice is perfect for the role of principal at Jarjum, which means ‘children’ in the Bundjalung language.

How our partnership began…

In early 2011, Caritas Australia was approached by Redfern Jarjum College and asked if we’d like to support Beatrice and the school. As with all partnerships, the relationship is mutually beneficial.

As Redfern Jarjum College gets underway, this is an opportunity for us to learn from their holistic program that incorporates and values both western and Aboriginal knowledge and ways of learning. It is our hope that the school will provide its students with the best elements of two very different worlds, and in doing so, with an opportunity that will be beneficial for all Australians.

Sponsored by St Aloysius College on behalf of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order), the school was also developed in consultation with local Aboriginal Elders. And with an expected opening date around January 2013, it is quickly moving towards completion in what was a disused presbytery at St Vincent’s Catholic Church in Redfern.

For children, youth and adults

With a low student-to-teacher ratio, the school will provide a culturally safe and supportive learning environment for some of the most vulnerable Aboriginal children in Redfern. The program will focus on the educational foundations of literacy and numeracy, as well as Aboriginal culture and heritage for up to 20 students aged from 4-12 years.

One of the aims is to alleviate the social, emotional, behavioural and health disadvantages of Aboriginal children so they can pursue secondary education in mainstream schooling.

To help with this, all students will receive transport to and from school, after school care, free tuition, meals (including breakfast) and health checks. There will also be plenty of opportunities for families and the wider community to get involved in night school and activities such as meal preparation, storytelling, dance and art.

The College is operating for the wider community … we will encourage children, teens, their families and Elders to come to the Centre. The Elders will receive a symbolic key to the door. We want them to come and teach the children about their culture."

Beatrice believes that the attraction of the school rests in its strong sense of community, the values it celebrates, its commitment to realising the potential of young people, and the provision of a balanced education that addresses the academic, social, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of students’ lives. She hopes that the College will also be a community driven school that the Aboriginal community in Redfern will participate in and direct.

“We will consult with the children; they’ve got a lot of great ideas … If a kid needs a bit of a go, I’ll be there with them,” said Beatrice. “We’ve said to them that the world’s their oyster – but they’ve got to believe that.”

For more on Redfern Jarjum College, see

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1 comment:

  • Anne Vans-Colina

    “What a wonderful venture. All the best to you Beatrice and your students.”