Family, faith and culture form learning experience
Alice Woosup and her four children didn’t know anybody when they moved from Brisbane to Townsville for a fresh start.
They found a sense of belonging – and a new extended ‘family’ – at a flourishing school whose educational model extends beyond reading, writing and numbers.
As students at Carinity Education Shalom, Alice’s children Aromah, Hezekiah, Jeremiah and Joshua receive an education, learn important life skills, and enjoy new cultural experiences that celebrate them being Indigenous Australians.
“Shalom was the first contact for my children to be amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff, so that was a huge benefit for all five of us,” Alice said.
“The thing that Shalom had that other schools didn’t was an inclusive approach to education. I love that the majority of the children that attend this school are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. My children get to see how other Indigenous families live and learn in this safe environment.
“The children just love it because it is such a community and a close-connected school. They love how they can practice their culture: singing and dancing and knowing that they do have an extended family, not only our immediate family but the Shalom community family. That’s what makes a huge difference for my children attending this school.”
Carinity acquired Shalom Christian College from the Uniting Church in 2018, saving the school at Condon from closure. The school recently changed its name to Carinity Education Shalom, to come in line with four other schools operated by Carinity in Hervey Bay, Gladstone, Brisbane and Rockhampton.
Carinity Education Shalom’s unique approach to education has proved popular, with enrolments doubling from 70 students to almost 140 in the past two years. Director of School Campus, Sharyn Ive, said the school is delivering positive educational outcomes and fostering cultural understanding in a Christian framework.
“The Bible refers to Shalom as the overflowing abundance of God’s presence in a community so that the community experiences wholeness, fullness and satisfaction in complete harmony with all creation. We support our students and their families in the same spirit,” Sharyn said.
“We are committed to providing an inclusive approach that improves the academic, spiritual and cultural outcomes for all students. At Carinity Education Shalom it isn’t enough to encourage students to achieve their academic goals – it’s about the young people achieving all their goals.”
At the heart of Carinity Education Shalom is ‘The Shalom Way’ – a school-wide positive behaviour framework helping to drive student success in a welcoming, safe and supportive environment.
“Part of the Shalom Way is that we embrace every student from wherever they have come from and whoever they are. Part of that means embracing where they are at and their spirituality and culture,” school chaplain Andrew Bollom explained.
“As a school, we really want to see the kids learn but equally important for us is seeing them grow, seeing their dreams form, seeing their passions develop, seeing them experience new opportunities.”
The school’s educational model sees each of the 136 students, from 74 families scattered around the Greater Townsville region, picked up and dropped off each day by the school’s youth workers in Carinity’s fleet of dedicated mini buses.
“I love that Shalom provides transportation to and from school. It was a huge blessing for my children to be picked up from the front of my house. Just to get a bus from my suburb to where the school is located it would be an hour,” Alice said.
The school also provides breakfast for students, ensuring they are physically ready to learn, which aids their educational outcomes.
“I love that they provide fresh fruit every day, and I love that they are teaching healthy eating. If the kids ever needed food, there is emergency lunch and there is a tuckshop. The community that Shalom has created means they always make sure everyone looks after each other,” Alice said.
Currently catering for children from Prep to Year 9, the school will progressively introduce more secondary year levels until a full Prep to Year 12 experience is available from 2024. Just as Carinity Education Shalom continues to grow, so too do its students as learners and as well-rounded young people ready to contribute to their community.
“There is always a cultural experience to learn and discover. Being in a place like Shalom, my children are always learning. Shalom has been a safe place. I know that I can come here and know that my children are safe. I love seeing the children comfortable in their skin,” Alice said.
Alice has no hesitation in recommending Shalom to other parents. “Shalom won’t only change your children, it will change you as a parent too.”
Read more stories from Belong: Summer 2022 | Edition 24