Indigenous students ‘star’ in Djinggi Program

The first cohort of students graduated on 15 November from a University of Wollongong supported pilot program designed to Djinggi -- (an Aboriginal Dhurga term meaning ‘star’).

It is the name given to the Indigenous Student Teachers in Training – School-Based Traineeship – Pilot Program supported by the University.

An event to celebrate the occasion was held in the Panizzi Room at the UOW Library.

The Djinggi program was established through a Memorandum of Understanding three years ago in 2011 between the School of Education at UOW and the Department of Education and Communities (DEC). Other key contributors to the development and operation of the program include TAFE Illawarra Institute, DEEWR and Auswide Projects.

These organisations have combined their resources to encourage Indigenous high school students entering Year 11 to seek a pathway into teaching on completion of their studies in Year 12.

The University agreed to offer places to students who successfully complete their HSC studies which must include Certificate III in Education. Up to 20 students are recruited at the end of Year 10 and during Years 11 and 12. In addition to their school-based subjects, they also undertake the Certificate via TAFE. Both online support and intensive classes are provided by TAFE during this time. As part of the Certificate, the students were placed in primary schools to gain work-based experience in an authentic setting.

Two of the 14 students in the first cohort, Jordan Field (who spoke on behalf of the students at the 15 November celebration) and Joshua Peters received VET awards at the regional level for their studies in Certificate III.

Speakers at the event included the Director of Public Schools NSW, Paul Morris (presented background to the project); Jordan Field (student journey); and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, John Steele (value of education and professional standing).

UOW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Eeva Leinonen, provided a formal 'welcome' from UOW and shared her own experiences as a student.

Professor Leinonen said the first cohort was now going to be role models for others to follow.

“You have come through an incredible program,” she said.

MC for the event Associate Professor Pauline Lysaght (School of Education) coined it a “lighthouse program”.

Various speakers referred to the great importance that teachers had had on their lives.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Inclusion and Outreach) Professor Paul Chandler said: "There has been a huge national debate about improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. A simple, yet sustainable way of achieving better educational outcomes is through attracting our best and brightest Indigenous talent into teaching as a career.

“An Aboriginal teacher is a powerful positive role model for communities. Djinggi is all about bringing these stars out into teaching and starting a generational change for Aboriginal people."

Following the celebration in the Panizzi Room, many of the guests attended a 'bush tucker' afternoon tea at Woolyungah Indigenous Centre.

It allowed them to meet the staff there and view facilities that are available to support UOW students. In particular, Indigenous students are provided support through the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) which provides specific support for students as they transition into university studies.


  • Pictured at the Djinggi celebration is Mrs Michelle Rush, Centre Manager, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre; Mr Steven Piper, Deputy Principal, Karabar High School, DEC; Mr Paul Morris, Director, Public Schools NSW, DEC; Ms Cheryl Smee, Head Teacher Adult Basic Education, TAFE; Associate Professor Ian Brown, Head of School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, UOW; Ms Jacqui Breen, Djinggi Program Co-ordinator, Auswide Projects; Mr Simon King, Careers Adviser & VET Co-ordinator, Illawarra Sports High School, DEC; and Professor Paul Chandler, P V-C (Inclusion and Outreach), Executive Director Early Start, UOW

  • Some of the successful program participants are (left to right back row):Julie-Ann Gee, Illawarra Sports High School; Jesse Jackson, Lake Illawarra High School; Dylan Ford, Lake Illawarra High School; Jordan Field, Warilla High School (student speaker and VET regional award winner); Joshua Peters, Ulladulla High School (VET regional award winner); Ashlyn Hampton, Vincentia High School; and (left to right front row): Brittney Marsden (Albion Park High School); and Melissa Cupitt (Kiama High School).

  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Eeva Leinonen at the celebration event for the Djinggi Program