We caught a minute with Wesley’s College’s Indigenous Program Coordinator, Dan Barnes, to find out what drew him to the College.
The Moorditj Mob is a unique aspect of life at Wesley College. Few other Public Schools’ Association schools have a dedicated Indigenous Pathways program, let alone anything on the scale of what Wesley is attempting to achieve.
With around 40 students being offered a needs-based Indigenous Scholarship, the College is leading the way in trying to narrow the gap between the educational opportunities available to non-Indigenous and Indigenous students.
The man currently at the helm of the program is Dan Barnes, who joined Wesley at the start of 2019. Although he’s new to the College, Dan has previously worked with Aboriginal people in Western Australia.
‘Prior to joining Wesley, I was working up in the Pilbara with Indigenous communities,’ he said. ‘The aim was to deliver a sport and recreation program to remote communities. Doing that up there ignited my passion and interest in Aboriginal culture.
‘Helping students engage in their own culture, and develop their own knowledge about their own culture, as well as having all the opportunities that come with a great education seemed like a really good balance for Indigenous students.’
Of course, Dan has had the good fortune to inherit a thriving program. ‘I have to acknowledge that my predecessor, Ben Lewis, did a wonderful job and the work he put in really lifted the profile of the Moorditj Mob. The program has become extremely successful—which is highlighted by the amount of interest we get externally.
‘We’re regularly contacted by other schools, businesses and government agencies asking if they can have the Moorditj Mob perform a dance, an Acknowledgement of Country or a workshop. I really want to continue that momentum, while getting the balance right with the students’ education.’
Naturally, great care is taken to ensure that each student who volunteers to dance does so with minimal impact on his lessons. However, the educational impact that comes from the experience cannot be underestimated.
‘We’re going out and doing dance performances, becoming well-known in the community,’ said Dan. ‘So the students are developing as leaders—as well as educating non-Indigenous (and even some Indigenous) people about their culture.’
Having a bit of time together travelling in the College bus has also helped Dan slot into his Moorditj Mob role, as it’s a great way to get to know the students better.
‘The students have been really good. As soon as I got to know them it was obvious that they were great young men to talk to and to deal with. I’m enjoying building a relationship with each of them.’
This article first appeared in the Wesley College magazine, The Wesleyan. To read more articles, please click here.
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