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An outback adventure with Caulfield Grammar School

A Year 9 Kakadu Program at Caulfield Grammar School embraces the stories, culture and communities of the Northern Territory.

The award-winning program provides Caulfield Grammar School Year 9 students the opportunity to experience residential living and learning at Jabiru on the edge of Kakadu National Park. 

This world-class learning experience involves students living on-country with Traditional Owners. In the remote wilderness, with guidance from elders and teachers and other educational tools, Year 9 students learn to expand their views of themselves and their country in a profound, self-reflective way.

The Year 9 Kakadu Program embodies the essence of curriculum innovation. Along with a profound effect on each student’s sense of self and their engagement with Indigenous and remote Australia, the school is confident of the positive impact of this program, both within its community and beyond.

Caulfield Grammar’s Director of Student Experience, Mr Mike Gregory, says the 24-day experience is profound.

“Creating ‘an echo for life’ is at heart of our intended impact for students from this learning experience. There is more in each one of us and the world than we know, and through the learning, reflection, and inspiration focusses students to learn so much about themselves and others,” Mr Gregory says.

“It is really quite humbling to see the personal growth journey of each student during the program and beyond. It ignites and unlocks profound understanding of self, of others, and of our land and country.”     

  “Cultural immersion programs allow students opportunities for personal leadership and to see the results of their own actions,” he says. “By taking the students out of their routines they learn about themselves and discover how strong, resilient and capable they can become.”

The program offers the opportunity for students to learn more about their own country. Image: Caulfield Grammar School

The adventure begins in Jabiru on the edge of Kakadu National Park, where students experience a range of cultural activities and insights from current and emerging Indigenous leaders.

Time is then spent on a cattle station near Katherine, where they see stock work, learn basic vehicle mechanics, gain animal husbandry insights and pastoral management and explore the rugged gorges of Nitmiluk National Park.

 The last part of the program is based on campus at Charles Darwin University. As the capital of the Territory and with proximity to Asia, Darwin gives students a wide range of experiences related to global issues with local connections. This model allows smaller groups of students to step up and take ownership of their learning and logistics while the teachers step back.  

 “This program offers the opportunity for students to learn more about their own country, and an insight into rural life that is not often experienced by people from more urban backgrounds,” Mr Gregory says.

 While the program is unashamedly designed to be a provocation, it is also a personal inquiry. The aim is that each student, through active participation, will open their mind to learning, reflection and inspiration about themselves and others that will continue long after they return home, perhaps even for a lifetime.

“When students return to school, they’re very aware of the experience they’ve had and the personal growth that has happened. They take that forward through the rest of their years at Caulfield Grammar,” he says. 

The 24-day adventure begins in Jabiru on the edge of Kakadu National Park. Image: Caulfield Grammar School

What students say about the program

“Community was an important factor that helped me grow and alter my identity for the better,” a Year 9 student said. “We frequently interacted with the Jabiru Area School and I’m grateful we got to bond and help the students in JAS. It helped me gain a new perspective that everyone’s life is different.”

“Two life-changing things I found (were) the importance of relationships and friendships, and discipline,” another Year 9 student said. “The trip was the longest time I’d been away from home and the things that helped me through were my connections to the staff and my peers, and my determination to get through. Staff and friends supported and encouraged me, which I’ll remember when going through any challenge.”

Caulfield Grammar’s students learn here by doing. Successes. Failures. Wonders. All in our extraordinary Australian backyard.

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