Helping young Indigenous people reach their destination

Established in 1995, the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) is a not-for-profit organisation that helps strengthen community development and cultural pride and resilience among young Indigenous people. Viva Energy began a 3-year partnership with NASCA in 2018 as part of its community program.

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Although NASCA still uses sport to engage students, these days there’s a greater emphasis on education: strengthening Indigenous students’ level of engagement with school and improving attendance through their secondary years.

Viva Energy funds the NASCA Resilience Program at Airds High School, southwest of Sydney, which has a relatively high proportion of Indigenous students. Airds is one of seven schools in the Sydney region that NASCA is involved with.

As well as encouraging school attendance and engagement, the Resilience Program at Airds is about leadership, improving social behaviours and attitudes, and fostering the development of cultural identity and pride. By building self-esteem, confidence, teamwork and communication, NASCA hopes to empower students to be successful in whatever they choose to do after school.

A positive report

A recent report* describes how successful the Airds program has been in achieving its objectives. 80 percent of NASCA students attended school regularly. That figure drops to just 47 percent for Indigenous students that aren’t in the program – and 75 percent for Airds’ non-Indigenous student population.

Of the 88 students who participated in 2019 (up from 67 the previous year), four won study scholarships, four found part time work and two gained full-time employment.

Importantly, 87 percent of NASCA students said that their confidence had improved. As testament to the confidence-building the program provides, a student was elected School Captain in 2020. Self-esteem is of course vital for personal growth and success through the school years and beyond.

Of equal importance, all NASCA students agreed that their knowledge of Indigenous culture had improved. The program has successfully strengthened their sense of cultural pride and identity, which goes a long way towards achieving respect and understanding within the greater community.

Support in school

The Resilience Program at Airds High School is run each Monday and Friday, when three NASCA staff visit and provide support for the participating students.

Skye Parsons is the Program Director at NASCA. “On Mondays we provide in-class support for young people who might be struggling with schoolwork or just needing a little extra help with assignments,” she explains.

“On Fridays we do our program content workshops for years seven to ten, which are all about culture, empowerment and building self-esteem. NASCA staff spend the whole week working with students across the seven schools we partner with. There are many schools like Airds that want to better support their young Indigenous students.”

The pandemic pause

After a promising start to 2020 that saw NASCA deliver 137 hours of its program to 57 students, including an extracurricular dance workshop facilitated by Bangarra Dance Company, the government restrictions introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the NASCA team from delivering their program to students.

However, NASCA took the opportunity to strengthen their program content for their return to school. Extra program resources were developed and written; the Social Impact and Evaluation framework was improved; over sixty new lesson plans were created; internal online training was completed; and pandemic-specific procedures were prepared.

Everything was ready to go when NASCA were able to return to Airds High School in August for one day per week to deliver their program content workshops. In-class support remains on hold to contain the spread of the virus, but that, too, is ready to roll out as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Helping out

The Airds High School program wouldn’t be possible without the assistance provided by Viva Energy. “We know we need to support our young people, but without the funding from Viva Energy the program simply wouldn’t exist,” says Skye.

The contribution from Viva Energy extends well beyond financial assistance. “Last year 18 volunteers from Viva Energy dedicated over 150 hours of their time to help us out. NASCA couldn’t run events without that help.”

Viva Energy also arranged for Airds High School students to tour the company’s terminal at Gore Bay in NSW, where they were able to see first-hand how a large fuel import terminal works and learn more about what the Viva Energy business does.

Strength to strength

Skye can see the partnership extending into the future as more Viva Energy people become involved. “In many important ways, Viva Energy has been a great supporter of NASCA. I have no doubt that the longer we continue working together, the stronger the relationship will grow.”

The success of the program was highlighted last year when a Year 10 student from Airds High School stood up in front of Viva Energy’s senior management and delivered a presentation about NASCA and its impact on his life. His self-esteem and confidence was apparent to everyone present. In Skye’s words; “he knocked it out of the park.”

*NASCA Report, Viva Energy Australia Partnership, July - December 2019.

Learn more about Viva Energy’s Community Program and commitment to its Indigenous Participation Plan.

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