The ‘life school’ helping Indigenous teenage mums kick drugs and alcohol

, - August 21, 2017

  • by Allyson Horn
  • ABC
  • 22nd July, 2017

Only 62 per cent of Indigenous girls on Cape York graduate high school, and it is even harder to finish when you fall pregnant.

Many teenage mums are desperate to break a cycle of dysfunction and disadvantage, including drug and alcohol abuse and violence.

They have turned to a one-of-a-kind boarding school, the Cape York Girl Academy, for help.

The students live on-campus with their babies and have lessons in everything from reading through to cooking for a baby.

Lazariah Creek, 17 years old

Lazariah Creek was just 15 years old and caught in a cycle of crime and alcohol abuse when she fell pregnant.

“As I was growing up I was walking around the streets and following my friends and I got into drugs and alcohol and that’s when I had Stanley,” she said.

“I was in with the wrong crew, hanging on the streets at night and chucking rocks at cars and breaking into things.

“I don’t want Stanley growing up like that. I don’t want that happening to Stanley.”

Lazariah has been living at Girl Academy since the start of the year and is studying for a job in early childhood education.

“This is the only opportunity I have, I get to have a second chance at learning,” she said.

“I didn’t know how to grow him [Stanley] up properly but now I do.

“Sometimes it gets hard but he’s my child, my responsibility. I have to look after him.”

Corrin Walden, 19 years old

Corrin Walden is one of five students at Girl Academy about to finish year 12.

They will be the first girls to graduate since the school opened last year.

“I want to restart my life,” she said.

“When I was in Doomadgee I was low, miserable. When I came here my whole life changed. I feel happy.

“This means for me a bright future when I finish here.”

Corrin was worried her daughter Akaydeia would repeat her “mistakes” and also become a teen mum.

“I want her to have a good life, a happy life you know,” she said.

“I don’t want her growing up in Doomadgee thinking smoking and drinking is normal for her.

“I want to make it better for both of us.”

Leanne Fox, Principal

“We often joke this is the school of small wins,” she laughs.

Leanne Fox took over the top job at Girl Academy earlier this year and she is not shy about revealing the challenges.

“Not all of our girls had babies because they chose to.

“It’s not particularly pretty, but our girls are strong and they want something better for themselves and their children.

Twenty girls currently board at the private school, which runs on Government support and donations.

The Principal said she gets applications for help from all across the country.

“There are no other boarding schools where they can go and live with their babies,” she said.

“We focus on teaching them parenting skills, independent living and reading and writing. It’s a holistic approach to education.”