A National Boarding Award has been presented to the Cape York Girl Academy, a unique school for girls who have been chronically disengaged from education. 

At the National Boarding Symposium in Brisbane, Indigenous Education and Boarding Australia recognised the Girl Academy’s “Excellence in the provision of Indigenous Students Health and Well-being”.

The school was established in 2016 at Wangetti Beach (Cairns) to support girls aged 12-18 years to re-engage with school to complete their secondary studies. 

The students at the Girl Academy come from a context where they have chronically disengaged from their education and most carry complex trauma. 

Principal Shoba Kalos said for this reason it has been imperative that the Girl Academy create a space where all staff are professionally developed to provide a culturally safe and healing surrogate home.

She said the Girl Academy provides a trauma-informed approach in the classroom and in boarding. “It is a place of healing with daily cultural practices that help to ground the girls on country, reinforcing their sense of belonging and identity.”  

“We offer a holistic, embedded health, wellbeing and academic program that meets the cultural, physical, social/emotional and spiritual needs of our students”. 

“It is humbling to be recognised for our work especially given that there are very well established metropolitan private schools,” Mrs Kalos said.  

“The students come to the school from many diverse parts of Australia, including Cape York, the Torres Strait Islands, Central Australia, the Northern Territory and the broader Cairns area.”  

There are many and compounding barriers which can disrupt schooling, including pregnancy and motherhood. Cape York Partnership saw the need to ensure motherhood did not prevent girls from pursuing their education. The Girl Academy became Australia’s first boarding school for young mothers and their babies to live and learn together. 

Head of Boarding Kathy Hamilton brought the award home from Brisbane and couldn’t wait to share it with the small team. 

“We are a boutique offering, a very specialised care and education, for a specialised clientele, reshaping the future for our girls who deserve a quality education,”  Kathy said.