In 2007, an informal relationship was established between Ti Tree School and Meriden School, an Anglican School for Girls, located in Strathfield NSW. This relationship came about as result of the work of Ti Tree teacher, Erin Hunter (nee Greenhalgh), who visited Meriden School with several of the Ti Tee students when visiting Sydney. With the support of the Ti Tree community, one of the students requested to be educated at Meriden. This request was supported by Mrs Hunter. Subsequently, other girls from Ti Tree have joined Meriden, living with their guardians in Strathfield; several boys have joined Trinity Grammar as boarders. Importantly, all the students return to Ti Tree in the school holidays.
In Erin Hunter’s own words, the story is as follows (written in February 2010):
“I was a teacher at Ti Tree School and saw, first-hand, the limited opportunities that are available to Aboriginal students in remote communities. After organising and running two Big Trips to Sydney it was put to me by the community that selected students from Ti Tree be given the opportunity to attend Sydney schools. Bursaries and enrolments were sought, starting with one young girl, Shamayla Presley. Currently, there are six students in Sydney from Ti Tree. I am their guardian.
Ti Tree is located in remote central Australia and includes the communities of Pmara Jutunta, Nturiya and Ti Tree Town in the Northern Territory. Ti Tree has a clinic, shop, road house, police station and a primary school. As there is no secondary school in Ti Tree, students who want to further their studies need to travel to a capital city, usually Darwin (1500kms north), for their secondary education. However, to date, no Ti Tree student has ever successfully completed an education leading to a university course. It is the aim of the Ngurra Jirrama Foundation to assist Aboriginal students from Ti Tree and other remote communities to have the opportunity to be well educated in supportive schools so that, one day, they will be able to make a positive contribution to their communities in areas such as education, social justice and health.
The Ti Tree community and I believe that there are children in Ti Tree who have the potential to be high academic achievers, but who need to be given an opportunity to fulfil this potential. Furthermore, the achievement of these students has given high aspirations to other children within the communities involved in the Foundation.”
The students also receive excellent medical and dental care in Sydney.
Since its inception, the relationship between Ti Tree and the Sydney schools has grown stronger and stronger. Many of the Ti Tree parents have visited Meriden and Trinity Grammar; the Ti Tree School principal, Ms Zania Liddle, has also visited both schools on several occasions. Meriden sends a delegation of Year 9 girls to Ti Tree for two weeks each year, and many of the Meriden and Trinity Grammar staff members have visited the Ti Tree community on numerous occasions.
In 2010, the Ngurra Jirrama Foundation was formed to oversee the selection of Ti Tree students for placement in city schools, to extend the opportunity to other Northern Territory communities and their students, and to monitor their progress in a formal and accountable way. The trustees of the Foundation also ensure that the finances of the Foundation are accounted for in a legal and responsible manner; the Foundation also has tax deductibility status which means that any donations to its work are tax deductible.
The trustees of the Ngurra Jirrama Foundation are:
The trustees of the Foundation are grateful for the donations that are given to the Foundation. These include the donations from Centrecorp, CentreLink and the Meriden Old Girls Indigenous Bursary, as well as the social support given to the students from many members of the Trinity and Meriden communities and the respective School Councils.
The students are making pleasing progress in their studies, especially given that they do not speak English in their homes at Ti Tree. The students are often very talented at sport, and several of them have been members of winning sports team or winners of individual events such as athletics and diving. Their efforts with their studies, their sportsmanship and their sporting talents have all been recognised through various awards and presentations.
Most importantly, the students are gaining a sound and holistic secondary education that will give them post-school options without compromising their links with their community. That is, they are growing and developing within their “two worlds”.
Further information about the Ngurra Jirrama Foundation can be obtained by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org