Werribee Secondary College: Helping students lead

Werribee Secondary College is a large school in Melbourne’s outer west with more than 1,500 students, 63 per cent of whom are from language backgrounds other than English. When a new cohort of students of refugee backgrounds enrolled, including a significant proportion of Karenni students, the school wanted to ensure these new students could access leadership opportunities.

A focus on student leadership was part of the school’s involvement in the 2017 Refugee Education Support Program (RESP). The initiative engaged teachers, Foundation House’s Karen-background multicultural youth development officer community liaison worker and local councils, who had experienced running leadership programs for CALD young people.

It was discovered that the school’s leadership application process presented barriers for Karen-background students. In addition, these students were uncomfortable with the requirement to be involved in a competitive election.

The council’s multicultural youth development officer had already engaged with some of the Karen-background students as part of council leadership initiatives, and was aware those students would be strong candidates for similar roles at Werribee Secondary College. The school’s leadership application process was adapted so that the students understood that they were applying for roles that would focus on serving the school community, including new students.

Potential leaders were assisted to complete the leadership application process, and the outcome was that three of those students joined the school’s student representative council.