First Nations Forum at St Columbas Springwood

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from throughout Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) came together in the Blue Mountains for the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Senior Students Forum at St Columba's Catholic College Springwood.

Led by St Columba's staff and CSPD’s Jarara Cultural Centre, the event offered amazing opportunities for students to explore career pathways including CSPD’s Teacher Scholarship program, engage in cultural activities, meet other First Nations students and take part in an engaging student panel looking at education, employment and the cultural experiences of young people in Western Sydney.

“We work with over 80 schools and it's really hard to connect with them all,” said Lyndal Simmonds, Jarara Cultural Centre Leading Teacher. “So a day like this is an opportunity for us to meet those senior students who are looking for what's their next step. We wanted to connect with them culturally because there's not always a lot of opportunities for that, but also provide them with options and pathways and let them know what's out there beyond school.”

Forum speaker Taleisha Councillor

The keynote speaker was Taleisha Councillor from Jarara Cultural Centre. Taleisha is currently studying for a Bachelor of Primary Education at Australian Catholic University and is a graduate of St Clare's Catholic High School Hassall Grove.

Taleisha also joined a student panel discussion that included Cobie (graduate of Bede Polding College South Windsor) and Sophie (graduate of Nagle College Blacktown) who spoke about their experiences at school, what they are doing now, and their own journey connecting to culture.

One aim of the forum, held on Dharug and Gundungurra land, was to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to take control of their future. They got to meet representatives from a huge number of organisations including all of Sydney's major universities, TAFE, Registered Training Organisations (RTO), apprenticeship centres, private colleges, professional associations and employers in a variety of industries.

First Nations Forum at St Columbas Springwood

“Talking to these careers people and the university mob especially, it feels so good to really understand that there’s more than just ‘you have to do your ATAR,’ ‘you have to get this mark’. It's honestly like a whole new support system,” said Jewel Osborne, student at St Agnes Catholic High School Rooty Hill.

First Nations Forum at St Columbas Springwood

Throughout the day the students took part in dancing, weaving, painting, and yarning with mob. It was an opportunity to celebrate culture and focus on their education, career, and employment journeys beyond school.

“It's been amazing,” said Tataya Curry-Jones, St John Paul II Catholic College Schofields student. “I'm not the best dancer, but I feel so connected to my culture, learning these dances and listening to the songs as well. They all have a very special meaning and I think it's just amazing for students to come down and learn the dances.”

Local students were also excited to hear that the Blue Mountains Gazette, Western Weekender newspaper and National Indigenous Television (NITV) covered the event.

The forum is in its first year and expectations are that it will be bigger and better in 2025.

First Nations Forum at St Columbas Springwood

Exhibitors at the Senior Students Forum included:

  • The Aboriginal Education Units from
  • University of Sydney
  • UNSW
  • UTS
  • Macquarie University
  • University of Western Sydney
  • TAFE Digital
  • PCYC
  • Western Sydney International Airport
  • CBP Construction
  • Ability Options
  • AES
  • AtWork Australia
  • ATO
  • ADF
  • Ambrose Early Learning
  • St Vincent De Paul
  • LinkUp


View and download photos from this event

Written By

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese

Instagram | Penola

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