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Row AHEAD: Clontarf to Curtin

It was important to the students to create a unique identity, which made rowing their own and to which all partners could be invited


Row AHEAD engages students from Clontarf Aboriginal College in a program of self-development through the sport of rowing. Students take part in weekly training sessions, with the aim of participating in four state regattas held by Rowing WA. As a part of the initiative, students are required to attend weekly academic development sessions.


  • Curtin University
    >>Addressing Higher Educational Access Disadvantage (AHEAD) program
    >>Curtin University Boat Club (CUBC)
    >>Curtin Stadium
  • Clontarf Aboriginal College
  • Rowing WA.

The Row AHEAD program meets the AHEAD program HEPPP-inspired objectives of raising aspiration, awareness, capability and eligibility for higher education. Program objectives also align with and supplement the Clontarf Aboriginal College strategic action plan, to support Aboriginal education.

The program was designed to engage with Clontarf students, for whom the following objectives represented new opportunities and learning experiences, in the development of personal goals, vocational opportunities, health and/or wellbeing:

  • to provide opportunities to meaningfully engage with university students
  • to provide new sporting opportunities
  • to provide academic support opportunities
  • to provide opportunities to culturally engage in rowing, promoting ownership of the sport through pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, culture and spirituality.

Row AHEAD offers the following opportunities for personal growth to each participant:

  • develop self-awareness by completing career assessment and mapping activities to plan potential career pathways
  • nurture an understanding of goal setting in relation to the health and training outcomes and skill development necessary to compete in a rowing regatta
  • foster investigative, communicative and collaborative skills by working in groups to complete a workbook project on rowing and its wider health, social and/or academic benefits enhance information technology skills by using iPads and a range of applications to design and create an iMovie, documenting their learning, personal development and/or training journey
  • cultivate an understanding of university entry pathways and the differences between secondary school and university.

Activities are built around an action learning model, to ground learning in an experiential framework that fosters interest, engagement and collaborative learning dynamics.

The team is made up of teachers, rowing coaches and university ambassador coaches. The organisational structure creates the potential for a positive student–teacher dynamic and enables role model relationships to develop organically. These relationships have great potential to extend beyond the duration of the program, through the planned long-term relationship between the program and Clontarf College, as well as the potential for students to continue their rowing journey through CUBC as on-going members of the club.

Qualitative feedback from students and staff (at both Curtin and Clontarf) has been overwhelmingly positive. This relates to both the impact on student participants in terms of demonstrations of commitment and interest to a schoolbased program, and their interest and awareness of higher education. Program outcomes include:

  • learning to row in single sculls, doubles, and quads
  • rowing as individuals and teams
  • completion of personalised land training, improving fitness and flexibility
  • completion of academic sessions on rowing history and theory, developing literacy and study skills
  • improvements in attitude toward school and learning.

On 26 July 2014, 16 Clontarf Aboriginal College students fulfilled the significant milestone of forming the first Indigenous rowing squad to take part in a state regatta, representing their school in the All School Championship.

The program is Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) accredited with full unit equivalence, which enables students to be appropriately recognised for the resilience they demonstrate in completing the program.

Indigenous people make up around 0.01 per cent of the rowing community. As rowing is often associated with elite schools and tertiary institutions, the parallels between the participation rate of Indigenous people in rowing and in higher education appear closely correlated. The program challenge and motivation for progress was thus clearly defined. The partnership shared a set of values, which together with clearly defined service capabilities, projected forward a communal vision of the program. Program activities were defined within a service agreement detailing terms of engagement and responsibilities. The agreement is driven by a program proposal which outlines the core philosophy, aims and objectives. However, it proved equally important to acknowledge and respect all partners’ unique reasons for being involved. Thus the partnerships were built around an acknowledgment and celebration of the unique nature of partner objectives and ownership of distinct service elements of the program. This allowed for an efficient and practical division of labour, with partners focusing on their areas of expertise to the benefit of the participants.

Solidarity and collegiality formed key tenets of the approach to participant engagement. The Clontarf students have carved out a piece of CUBC as their own, and wear the same jumpers as those representing the university club. More importantly, the students have been empowered to create their own rowing identity. One activity early in the program was for students to design their own racing zootie – a uniform to wear when they raced. It was important to the students to create a unique identity, which made rowing their own and to which all partners could be invited, to support and collaborate in. The Clontarf students were recognised as partners of the program as much as participants.

The program has generated much positive community interest and there is a strong will for it to become a regular fixture of both Clontarf College and CUBC. WACE accreditation has solidified the practical impact that the course can have on students who participate.

The rowing community has been very generous in donating two boats to the program for the exclusive use of Clontarf rowers, ensuring facilities are available to continue the initiative. Rowing WA has also offered to provide rowing instructor training for a member of the Clontarf College staff to support the longevity of the program. The program is also looking for other funding sources to ensure this outreach program can continue.

Image depicting four types of partnerships. Intra-university, Inter-sectoral and Social...

This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.

Posted 9 June 2015 Posted in General, Indigenous