Year 10 Mullumbimby High School students Jack Melling (left), 16, Manroop Singh, 15, Jack Govett, 15, Jack Gosiewski, 15, Jesse Bowker, 16, and Harley Black, 15 will participate in a new mentoring program in memory of their mate Jai Morcom.
Year 10 Mullumbimby High School students Jack Melling (left), 16, Manroop Singh, 15, Jack Govett, 15, Jack Gosiewski, 15, Jesse Bowker, 16, and Harley Black, 15 will participate in a new mentoring program in memory of their mate Jai Morcom. David Nielsen

Aboriginal values taught in class

SIX of Jai Morcom’s class-mates are leading a bold new mentoring initiative at Mullumbimby High School dedicated to his memory.

Designed by Aboriginal historian and former Mullumbimby High teacher Steve Strong, the concept began as a means to counter youth violence and bullying, but has since evolved.

The pilot program which commenced two weeks ago is based on traditional Aboriginal practices and values and is being delivered by five Aboriginal mentors over the next two terms.

Mr Strong joins a chorus of historians who agree that before European settlement, Aboriginal Australia was one of the most politically stable and non-violent societies in history, and the benefits of its customs and practices can be directly employed today.

Led by their Aboriginal mentors, Jai’s six mates and 45 younger boys have embarked on much more than a symbolic journey of initiation to manhood through spear-making, boomerang throwing, fire-making, cooking, tracking and hunting.

Woven into this program are lessons and stories that combine to underpin the skills learnt.

“The boys are really enjoying these history lessons taught traditionally and orally – no pens or paper are allowed. It’s all about questions, observations and comparisons,” Mr Strong said.

“It’s a combination of the culture and history of Aboriginal values where the boys work as a group.

“Aboriginal family values were so powerful they didn’t need police or prisons or a parliament.

“The boys don’t just learn pragmatic conflict resolution skills. They learn what they need. Some may learn to better control their anger and frustrations, but some won’t need that. Others might learn to be more confident.”

Mr Strong was inspired to develop the program after former Mullumbimby High mother Ashley Thompson brought the idea of a mentoring program for boys to him after she learnt that 8 per cent of boys at the school came from single-mother households.

Jai’s father, Steve Drummond, gave the program his blessing and said he supported it ‘100 per cent’.

“It is a great idea. After all, how can we expect our children to respect each other if we don’t respect the traditional owners?” he said.

“The elders played a big part at Jai’s funeral. I saw it work there. Everyone came together for one moment to show respect.

“It was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had.

“I hope they trial it in more schools.”



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