A landmark literacy program run by TAFE NSW is helping Uncles from Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation in Redfern reclaim their education.
Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation was established by survivors of Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, a “home” run by the NSW government for over 50 years to house Aboriginal boys forcibly removed from their families.
Uncle Bobby attended the Kinchela Boys Home from 1954 to 1965. He says that his time in the home was traumatic, and that he never really received a formal education.
“I’m one of the ex-KBH boys, the Stolen Generation. When we first lived in the boys’ home our identity and culture were taken away from us and we were called by numbers. I was number 24 and my cousin was number 23,” Uncle Bobby said.
“We were punished regularly at the home, caned and forced to write a word 100 times from the blackboard even though our hands and bodies were aching from the cane. When I left, I still had very little education, so I went to work in the railways and then later as a driver for a freight company.”
In developing the literacy program, TAFE NSW and the Uncles from Kinchela worked together to build trust and identify personalised and collective goals. A strong component of the program has been integrating literacy activities with cultural and family history research to support the Uncles’ truth telling. Literacy teachers, Jill Finch and Sue Sim, work closely with Drew Roberts, a proud Bundjalung man and Cultural Education teacher, to customise learning opportunities to suit each student’s literacy levels, needs and interests.
“This is much more than just a literacy program – it is a two-way learning experience,” Sue said. “Each week we learn from the Uncles and their brave and honest life stories. They are teaching us to be better teachers.”
Uncle Bobby says the program has completely changed his experience of education and increased his confidence in reading, writing and spelling.
“In the past to get by I’ve mainly focussed on what people were saying at work and around me. I used to get frustrated because my wife and eldest boy would have to help me fill out forms and I’d like to be able to do that sort of thing by myself.
“I’m really proud of what we have achieved here. I have learnt a lot and increased my ability in reading and writing and spelling, which has helped with my confidence. I really look forward to it each week and I’m so happy already with how far I’ve come.”
The literacy program was awarded the Community Partnership Award in the 2021 TAFE NSW Gili Awards.