Living Knowledge Project

Kempsey High School - How did we do it?

Kempsey High School profile and programs

Kempsey High School is a co-educational school located on the mid north coast of NSW. It was one of the original high schools in the area.   Opened in April 1930, like all schools, the school has had cycles of success.

In 2001, the school went through a School Review and has had a two thirds turnover of staff during the last few years. At present Kempsey High School sits below the state average in SNAP and ELLA results, although this year the value added statistic from year 7 to year 8 was the highest in the Port Macquarie district.

Kempsey High School is a drawing area for traditional Dunghutti Country. The proportion of Aboriginal students is 20% in 2004, rising from 14% in 2001. Although a significant number of Aboriginal students complete year 10 at Kempsey High (there is room for improvement), the retention rate for senior students is poorer. At the beginning of 2004, Aboriginal students formed 17% of year 11. By the end of 2004, the number had dropped significantly. In 2005, Kempsey High will run 'Goorie Fundamentals', a support subject to help retention rates for year 11 Aboriginal students.

Year 12 Aboriginal students in 2004 formed 8.6% of the year. Most of these students do not take Science in senior years.

  A student congratulated by Art teacher Pam Garstang. His art work Protection forms part of his HSC major work selected for HSC Art Express.

Many students take and excel in Art, TVET and Sport based subjects. For example, in 2004, Malcolm Dixon's Visual Arts major work based on Dunghutti culture was included in the final selection of HSC Art Express.

"My artwork expresses the different sides of me. I love my culture and proudly paint it in my own unique way. I have been influenced by Robert Campbell Jr. who also came from Kempsey. "Protection" shows the snake protecting its young as my parents protect me from the world, trying to keep me from danger and the predators of today's world."
Malcolm Dickson, Kempsey High School 2004

The retention rates of Aboriginal students from year 7 to year 12 at Kempsey High have increased marginally from 28.6% in 1999 to 29.2% in 2003. These rates should continue to improve with the new programs introduced in 2004 and 2005.

  Aboriginal senior students often socialize with Aboriginal junior students in the playground e.g. playing handball.

Year 10 Aboriginal boys from 2004 are a group that have been targeted as mentors within the school in 2005. They have produced proportionally less discipline based RISC reports than non Aboriginal boys. This may be due to their semester of Culture education, the participation in programs such as Peer Tutoring where the students helped teach younger students to read as well as their commitment to high level sporting disciplines within the community.

Within the school the Aboriginal students form a strong cultural group and are supported by a number of Aboriginal aides and assistants. In 2004, the school has one Aboriginal Education Assistant (AEA) for the Bellbrook area and the Kempsey AEA position is shared amongst two assistants.

  Senior Aboriginal students display a sense of welfare and community toward junior students.

Many students are naturally strong in certain areas, e.g. sport and art. Science in Context is a new area of encouragement for students. Since science is based on life, then Science in Context can easily equate to Aboriginal culture.   It need not be some thing that is irrelevant to their culture. Science in Context works at Kempsey High because:

  • there is a sense of culture within the school.
  • the Aboriginal student population is supported by increasing community involvement. This is already strong for students from the Bellbrook area.
  • funding for new programs through government programs, eg. disadvantaged funding, means that new initiatives can be introduced along with staff development.


School Programs

Kooris on Job and Kooris in Business
The Indigenous community of Kempsey, the Dunghutti Nation, has expressed a need to run this course at Kempsey High School for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students who attend Kempsey High School. It has run at Kempsey High for the last sixteen years. This traditionally was a time when Aboriginal students left school for many reasons, but this course has supported students to continue with their education. Ken Boston, Director General of Education and Training, stated that this course is " ... a particular poignant contact   between the outstanding achievements of the present and the 1930s." Indigenous role models are the key to the success of the program and they focus on the message of staying on at school and getting an education. Other features of the course are literacy, computer skills, self esteem, career links, life skills, cultural studies and small business operations. All of these integrated topics are held together by an Aboriginal community working in partnership with the school.