20 years of Blackwood success

When Riley Gould came to Blackwood two years ago, his life was at a crossroads.  

"This place changed my life. We did maths and reading, but they also taught us life skills.

"The teachers taught us that school was important. Without school, our prospects weren't good."

Six months later, he returned to his old school, Warragul Regional College, with a new focus. His grades have improved and he rarely misses a day. 

Riley is one of the many former students of the Blackwood Centre for Adolescent Development who returned to the Hallora school last Tuesday to celebrate the school's 20th anniversary.

Founding teachers, MPs, local councillors, volunteers and donors were there for an occasion that started with a stirring drum session from students and continued into an afternoon of celebration and appreciation.

Co-founder and team leader David Hayes said that when he and his wife, Julie Hayes, and fellow teacher Michael (Mick) Murphy began the school for disaffected students in 1994, they thought it might last two years.

Founding teachers, MPs, local councillors, volunteers and donors were there for an occasion that started with a stirring drum session from students and continued into an afternoon of celebration and appreciation.

Co-founder and team leader David Hayes said that when he and his wife, Julie Hayes, and fellow teacher Michael (Mick) Murphy began the school for disaffected students in 1994, they thought it might last two years.

In its 20 years, it has frequently come close to closing, but has always pulled through, with massive support from MPs, local schools, donors and volunteers.

In its 20 years, the school has hosted 40 intakes of six months' duration - 800 students altogether.

Those students, who have commonly become disaffected from school through trauma or other difficult personal circumstances, have recorded a remarkable 93 per cent attendance rate.

Ninety per cent have completed their six-month program, including a wilderness trek in the Woolamai National Park.

"I'm very proud of that and very proud of our kids and community," Mr Hayes said.

"We run into our kids all over the place. They smile at you then they give you a hug and you realise something good must have happened at this place."

His words were echoed by former students.

Joel De Vries said his six months at Blackwood provided a good space away from school problems.

"If you ever had a bad day, the teachers were always there to support you."

Sophie Sweetland said the school made a huge difference in her life, mainly through the attitude of the teachers.

"It was more than a job to them. They really cared. They gave you the time - they really wanted you to do well."

She is now working and studying online, and attributes it to her time at Blackwood.

"I pulled my head in. It really changed my life." 


    Posted in Blackwood School

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