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Tristan’s Transition Support
Tristan Duggie knows what it’s like to move from a remote community to attend boarding school and the fears and challenges that can come with it.
As a youngster he moved from his community Mungkarta near Tennant Creek to several boarding schools including St John’s in Darwin and now shares his knowledge and experience helping students from the Barkly region transition to boarding school as part of his role as Student and Family Support Officer with the Transition Support Unit (TSU).
He assists about 20 students and families from about 10 different communities with the boarding school process – everything from getting formal identification, to enrolment and preparing students for boarding school life.
“It’s hard, the whole moving process is hard because you’ve never done it before and you’re leaving everything behind,” Tristan said.
“To be a remote student who then has to travel to Alice or Darwin or interstate, that’s got to be scary – you get worried about being able to speak language and being able to find your flight.”
TSU serviced 78 remote schools and assisted 1900 NT students from 250 different NT locations to attend boarding school in 2017.
Tristan said it was important to have a service like TSU to work with students and their families and to provide on-going support and encouragement.
“TSU provides good engagement and I love working with the families and students. It’s very handy to have local knowledge too as it helps to develop relationships with communities,’’ he said.
“Our students, with encouragement and support, can do very well at boarding school and TSU helps with a lot of that.
The biggest challenge for Tristan when he went to boarding school was leaving his language and culture behind and the fear he may lose his traditional knowledge.
“I ended up finishing Year 12 and all the way through I worried about leaving everything at home; my language and culture,’’ he said.
“I didn’t lose anything and I still sit down with the elders and have that knowledge – and there’s still a lot more for me to learn.
“I’m now reading and writing in my third language and I’m learning to speak my fourth language. I was so worried about losing my language and culture but you can always come back to culture. You just need to keep it strong.’’