Secondary education strategy
As part of its 2019–20 Secondary Education Strategy, AHL trialled a number of new initiatives in two of its Northern Territory student hostels in Katherine and Tennant Creek.
Following service reviews at both sites in late 2019, AHL put in place new operating frameworks and partnered with a number of key stakeholders to strengthen its engagement with schools, families and communities, and drive improved student outcomes. Based on review recommendations, these activities focussed on:
- Collaboration with the Australian Childhood Foundation to strengthen AHL’s service model, including training and professional development for staff
- Strengthening strategic ties with local Aboriginal organisations in both Katherine and Tennant Creek to support students and help them maintain strong connections with their culture
- Strengthening ties and working in close partnership with Tennant Creek and Katherine High Schools, as well as outlying remote schools. The main driver of this partnership was the establishment of a Strategic Reference Group in both locations, jointly chaired by AHL’s Heads of Boarding and the Principals at each High School. These Reference Groups are a key initiative to ensure an effective and ongoing partnership is maintained between AHL, schools and Northern Territory Education staff, in achieving and sustaining student attendance, retention and attainment.
In both locations, these connections are directly supporting students’ full participation in, and benefits from, the educational and cultural opportunities available to them.
In mid-2020, AHL put in place a more targeted Secondary Education Action Plan, which focusses on engagement and student recruitment to build enrolments and strengthen student support initiatives across its nine secondary education hostels.
The Action Plan addresses priorities across the following categories:
- Student Welfare
- Education Support
- Staffing & Staff Training
- Hostel Facilities & Operations
- Student Enrolments, Retention & Attainment
- Community & Stakeholder Engagement
- Communication & Marketing
- National Boarding Standards
- Review & Continuous Improvement
Achievements in 2019-20
Child Protection Framework
With the assistance of the National Office of Child Safety, AHL’s Child Protection Framework, originally published in 2017–18, was substantially revised ahead of a planned relaunch in late 2020. Key documents within the Framework were rationalised and updated to ensure their alignment with the Council of Australian Governments National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework.
The face-to-face training program to support the Framework, as outlined in AHL’s 2019–20 Child Protection Roadmap, was suspended due to continuing COVID-19 travel restrictions. Instead, delivery of a new Managing Critical Child Protection Incidents remote training module was implemented with staff in AHL’s nine secondary education hostels.
A benchmarking survey was also undertaken with managers in secondary education hostels to help inform future training plans and promote awareness of the upcoming relaunch of AHL’s framework, until such time as face-to-face training can resume.
Addressing homelessness in Tennant Creek
AHL’s Wangkana Kari hostel continued to meet high demand for homelessness and medical accommodation in Tennant Creek, supported by a comprehensive service agreement with local support agencies and Affordability Trial funding to prevent residents who are unable to pay tariff returning to homelessness.
Occupancy was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions from March through to May 2020, which saw all AHL hostels cease taking new bookings, and beds taken offline to ensure adequate social distancing in rooms for current residents.
Despite this, more than 300 residents utilised the facility during the reporting period. Affordability Trial funding has meant that 137 medical and homeless residents who would otherwise have returned to homelessness, overcrowded housing or rough sleeping, were able to maintain safe and secure accommodation.
AHL continued to provide local employment opportunities, with 21 staff working across the homelessness and student accommodation facilities, 14 of whom (66%) were Indigenous.
Both services have secured Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding for a further three years from 1 July 2020. This funding includes provision to continue the Affordability Trial as a permanent measure for the next three years.
Responding to accommodation needs in Darwin
Designed to provide a specialised response to homelessness pressures in Darwin, specifically rough sleepers, the Galawu homelessness project was extended with the Northern Territory Government to December 2020.
While impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leave Darwin to return to their home communities, the hostel continued to meet high demand for accommodation, with occupancy rates close to 80% for the majority of the reporting period.
AHL worked closely with the Northern Territory Government and the three referral partners involved in the project (Larrakia Nation, City of Darwin Council and Danila Dilba Health Service) to strengthen and refine referral protocols and external support arrangements for those residents requiring more intensive case management.
Addressing medical residents’ nutritional and amenity needs
This demonstration project, based in Daisy Yarmirr Hostel in Darwin, commenced in late 2019 to develop best-practice responses to issues raised by key renal and medical stakeholders, as well as a 2019 Deeble Institute Issues Paper which found that more needs to be done to respond to the needs of longer-term renal patients staying in medical and multipurpose hostels.
AHL engaged PwC Indigenous Consulting in Darwin to assist in leading this project. An advisory group of high-level renal and medical experts has continued to meet since January 2020. Site visits to Daisy Yarmirr, as well as a renal dietician in-service for staff, were held ahead of the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions. A number of planned resident-focused workshops were suspended while restrictions remained in place and were rescheduled to later in 2020.
During 2020–21, the project will move into production of a best practice guide for staff and renal residents, addressing specific requirements in relation to appropriate food and nutrition, amenity, cultural connectedness and in-reach arrangements for services, to facilitate more active support of their clients staying at AHL hostels.