An initiative in Western NSW to encourage Aboriginal students who like Rugby League has been recognised at the NSW Training Awards. The Country Rugby League Far West Development Strategy received the 2010 NSW VET in Schools Excellence Award.
The NSW Training Awards recognise excellence in vocational educational training each year and are the most prestigious NSW awards in this area.
In 2008 Michael Dabin, Development Officer from the Country Rugby League promoted the idea of Country Rugby League's Far West Development Strategy - School Club Program which supports students to complete their HSC and aims to build capacity in Aboriginal communities.
The program is a collaborative partnership between Country Rugby League, schools and TAFE. Its primary objective is to encourage and facilitate high school students remaining at school beyond Year 10 by providing them with practical learning activities related to rugby league. The "practical learning experience" that connects students' interest in sport to their HSC studies is a Certificate II in Business which is delivered by TAFE Western.
Rugby league is popular in the North West where it is a galvanising force in the communities which have provided many of the sport's top players. However these communities and sporting clubs have lacked expertise in administration and management so the TAFE course has been tailored to fit around the operational requirements of a virtual Rugby League football club.
Country Rugby League's strict guidelines, policies and procedures, as well as their corporate governance in relation to club hierarchy and event management, is proving to be an excellent model for training young people in leadership and management.
Gala Day preparation, management, communications and other event management competencies are mapped to the Business Services course and assessed with a focus on actual Country Rugby League events. Work placement is simulated so students practice their skills while supporting the Country Rugby League gala days in varying locations such as Lightning Ridge, Brewarrina, Nyngan, Bourke, Walgett and Cobar.
Country Rugby League received funding from the Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) under the Sporting Chance Program and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework provided funding to TAFE Western under the 2009 E-learning Innovations Funding Program which enabled the program to be launched during 2009.
The program was piloted in 2009 with students at Brewarrina, Walgett and Cobar and expanded in 2010. It is understood that it may now be replicated in other areas of the state.
In 2010 videoconference from the Walgett TAFE Campus is used for four students from Goodooga and two from Boggabilla. Eight students from the Walgett Community College and three from Coonamble School received face to face teaching at the local TAFE campus. Training is provided at school for three students at Nyngan three and one from Cobar. This makes a total of 21 students currently supported by Country Rugby League's Far West Development Strategy - School Club Program as they work towards their HSC and a Certificate II in Business Services.
Student's achievement in the Country Rugby League project seems to have a flow-on effect with improved success in other areas of study.