Guiding future Indigenous Leaders


St Catherine’s College in Crawley, has a new mentor and teacher for their successful Indigenous Access Program, Dandjoo Darbalung. Abby-Rose Cox, a Kija woman from Broome, is an alumna of the College.

Driven by personal experience, it was teaching support that profoundly influenced Abby’s formative years, as one of only a few indigenous students that boarded and attended high school at Perth’s Iona Presentation College.

Abby said it was the teachers there, that gave up their extra time for support, who positively impacted the rest of her life.

“I am a huge advocate for education overcoming challenges. It provides a voice for your viewpoint and opinions and a platform to build leadership skills. From personal experience, education has been something that has been extremely important in my life,” said Abby.

In her new role, Abby joins a successful Indigenous Access program of which she was a member whilst at College. It has a 90 per cent university retention, exceeding the national average of below 50 per cent.

“My primary role is to support new students’ transition from high school to university and build their confidence as a university student,” said Abby.

“We are academic tutors, teachers and mentors, dealing with everything from basic student needs to supporting academic assignments.”

“We have 70 students from all over Australia, and some of them come to St Catherine’s with very little, (not even bed sheets), so my role also includes the pastoral nature of making their stay comfortable.”

During the two-week preparation program with the 35 new Dandjoo Darbalung students joining the College this year, Abby told the students it was time to purchase new Transperth Smart Riders.

“I just remember the blank looks on their faces, and I remember that feeling too, from growing up in Broome, at a basic and simple level, you don’t even know what a Smart Rider is.”

In the first few months of the role, witnessing the positive learning curve for students has been rewarding, said Abby.

“They (the students) don’t have to be getting High Distinctions, but to see them in there, giving it a go, putting in the effort, getting on the bus to university at 8am, you know you’re making a difference in their lives and their future.”

“You can see that the cultural program works, along with a supportive college community and staff who really care.”

The St Catherine’s College, Dandjoo Darbalung Indigenous Access program, was established in 2012 and continues to foster support from industry partners and leaders to assist in growing the program to 100 students by 2020.


Lauren Humfrey (St Catherine’s College) (+61 8) 9442 0591

Jiaranai Keatnuxsuo