Building trusting relationships with communities
Our Community Engagement Officer at Yiramalay is Stanley Shaw Marr, a Bunuba and Kija man from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. Here he shares his part in the school’s story.
I can remember hearing about the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School in 2010 from family members. ‘You know, you should probably come out to the school and have a look; you would be a good role model for young people there.’ I would ask questions about it, only to be told that I would have to come out there and experience it for myself. The Executive Director would bump into me at the IGA in Fitzroy Crossing and humbug me about working at the school, and in 2014 I just thought ‘You know, why not? I’ll give it a go,’ and that’s how I started working at Yiramalay.
In 2015 I moved to Melbourne and mentored the Indigenous boys in houses in Glen Waverley. Learning in Residence (LiR) opened at the beginning of 2017 and I joined the team as a residential mentor. Being part of the LiR team was a huge learning experience for me and I appreciate having the chance to work there.
This year, I’m back at Yiramalay, working as the Community Engagement Officer. My role involves building trusting relationships with families within the communities that our students come from, listening to their needs, and interviewing prospective students and their families to see if we are a good fit for them. Being a local works to my advantage; I know the community and elders around the Valley and have family and friends across the Kimberley. Working as a mentor over many years means I am also well known to students and families from many Northern Territory communities.
When I go into town, everyone asks questions about how to enrol to get into Yiramalay. The biggest challenges of the role are getting students set up with Abstudy; families find it challenging to get this done and that’s where I support them. We are doing significant marketing across the Kimberley, and more organisations including Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation, RNTBC and the Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation are actively supporting and promoting the school.
It has been so great in this job and I’m really enjoying it here. Going back to Yiramalay was like going back home. I don’t even worry about going into town most weekends, I prefer to just chill here at Yiramalay.