A group of Moree TAFE students will be going on to further study or employment opportunities after successfully graduating from a unique TAFE course recently.
A total of 12 students - including six from Moree, and one from Narrabri, Tingha and Gilgandra - recently graduated with a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies for Professional and Community Practice, following seven months of study in Moree.
The nationally-recognised diploma provides cultural literacy and competence, with students coming away with a high-level of understanding of Aboriginal cultures and knowledge systems, complex socio/historical issues and the skills needed for application in the workplace, community or academic environment.
It was the first time this course has been offered in Moree and TAFE NSW Aboriginal Studies teacher MaryAnn Seymour said it was a great success.
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"We'll definitely come back to Moree," she said.
"We offer it where it's wanted, giving people the opportunity to learn on their country.
"It gives people the skills and confidence to go on to further study or employment. Two are starting uni from this diploma, one has gone into a full-time job, another has landed a traineeship at TAFE. It can lead anywhere. It's the cultural foundation and knowledge."
Proud Moree Gamilaroi man Patrick Marshall was among the graduates who have already benefitted from the course.
Mr Marshall has managed to secure full-time employment as a School Learning Support Officer (SLSO) at the Barwon Learning Centre, where he engages boys in culture and language.
He said gaining this position wouldn't have been possible without this diploma.
"[The course] really opens your eyes up to all the social issues and gives a real in-depth look at the true history and the way it's shaped society today," he said.
"I want to utilise the skills I've learnt to make a positive impact in my community by working with youth and culture and engaging the disengaged. A lot of kids are disengaged from school. I want to encourage them to come back to school through cultural practices."
For Mr Marshall, the diploma is a stepping stone to get into uni to study a bachelor of social work.
"I hope I can inspire others to show there's no barriers to learning," he said.
"I didn't even complete year 12. This diploma is equivalent to year 12 and my entry requirements into uni.
"There's plenty of opportunities out there for our people to study. There's plenty of pathways. I'd like to encourage others to do this, not only this course but to engage in some sort of study to better yourself and your community."
Moree's Julie French is another graduate who will be furthering her studies after completing the diploma. She is planning on re-enrolling at the University of New England to study psychology.
"I want to be a counsellor," she said.
"I've already got experience in a range of things - I've done case management and community services courses and have done over 15 years in childcare. I was a drug and alcohol worker and have cared for me father.
"This course has inspired me to keep going.
"MaryAnn and the teachers were so inspiring. I'm just so glad they came to Moree and gave us the opportunity to learn face-to-face."
The course is for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, however Ms Seymour said in the past 10 years she has taught a majority of Aboriginal students, ranging in ages from "pushing 18 to the other side of 80".
"This is the first time we've had a father and daughter do it," Ms Seymour said.
"We also have three men that have graduated which is unusual - it's mostly women who do it."
Ten of the 12 students attended the graduation ceremony, held at Pius X Aboriginal Corporation Hall on Thursday, June 6.
Ms Seymour would like to thank Cafe Omega for catering for the graduation and Moree Bakehouse for making the cake. She also said they could not have done the course in Moree without the support of Pius
"We did the course in the hall," she said.
"They worked around us and have been so accommodating."