The Glenormiston Rural Retreat was a three day program held at the Glenormiston Agriculture College for 22 Year 9 students identified as at high risk of disengagement. The Glenormiston Agriculture College is a well resourced venue with staff and facilities including accommodation, amenities and equipment and livestock, making it an ideal location to cater for large groups.
Agriculture is considered to be the largest industry sector in this region being one of the prompts for the Glenormiston Rural Retreat. This program was part of a strategy to boost career knowledge and education pathways in agriculture for young people and to impart skills for rural settings through hands on activities as well as aligning programs to improve students’ social skills empowering them to make choices that are positive for themselves and their peers.
A key strategy was to use the platform of rural skills and careers to provide a preventative and proactive approach to peer issues including; not keeping up with school, and life skills coaching including; empowerment and relationship and friendship problems.
Country Fire Authority (CFA) training kick started the program to develop students’ knowledge about safety around the home and encourage students to think about the community and participation through volunteerism and/or careers. This was a great “ice breaker” as many of these students were away from their usual peer groups. The agriculture program targeted a “hands on” approach to enable students experience in a range of areas such as plant propagation, cattle and horse handling and management and small engines operation and maintenance. Other activities on the retreat included a trek up Mt Noorat and concluded with personal fitness routines facilitated by a personal trainer.
The Glenormiston Rural Retreat initiative was also designed as a strategy to keep students engaged at school through exposure to an interesting and fun environment where careers, health and empowerment topics were discussed with the aim to improve students’ social skills and local knowledge.
The retreat was well received by students, teachers and stakeholders; the following is a quote from one of the students’ teachers:
“We were all working, staff included, with people we didn’t normally work with. The program helped students see agricultural career alternatives and opened up a new world. Although a new group dynamic was formed, it helped foster an understanding and empathy for other people; the group took on new responsibilities and had a REAL taste of acceptance.”