The activities are designed to show the students what it's
like to be part of Defence. What kind of training regimes they can
expect. What it's all about. They're based on a military-style delivery
Macquarie Fields was the final pit stop in our Great TAFE SWSi Road Trip.
It was late in the day when we arrived at the College. The sun had
already dipped below the horizon, the shadows were lengthening and a
late afternoon chill was making its presence felt. But it was an
animated and energetic scene that greeted us in the College grounds. A
group of students were participating in what looked like a kind of
military-style obstacle course/boot camp thingy. They were charging
around in pairs and small groups, navigating the various different
activities, calling out to each other, laughing and offering
encouraging whoops and cat calls.
What we were watching was a program called Tracks to Defence,
something that Macquarie Fields Campus specialises in. Our contact,
Karen, the College's Aboriginal Coordinator, explained what was going on.
"Tracks to Defence is a 5-day orientation program for indigenous
students who are interested in joining the armed services," she
said. "The students come from all over Australia. They're usually
put in contact with us by Defence recruitment. The SWSi Aboriginal
Unit works very closely with the Defence Department. The activities
are designed to show the students what it's like to be part of
Defence. What kind of training regimes they can expect. What it's all
about. They're based on a military-style delivery."
When the students first arrive at Macquarie Fields, their literacy
and numeracy levels are checked to make sure they meet Defence's
compulsory minimum, which is equivalent to Year 10. Those students who
fall below this are put into Defence
Force English and Defence
Force Maths pathway courses that bridges the shortfall. The
other students get stuck into Tracks to Defence, which also includes
mentoring and support programs.
Macquarie Fields College also offers a range of courses in many
popular industry areas such as wall and floor tiling, aged care,
fashion design and technology, signage, IT networking and
telecommunications. But the Tracks to Defence program is probably one
of the College's more unusual offerings. As we watched the
participants finishing their rounds and starting to pack away the
day's equipment, it stuck me how energetic and engaged everyone was. A
blindfolded student was making her way through the final stages of an
obstacle course, a fellow student hovering behind her, banging
enthusiastically on a metal saucepan every time she stood on a
‘landmine'. There was a kind of infectious joy to these activities
that seemed to warm the dim, diffused light of dusk.
Okay, so maybe I'm waxing a bit lyrical. But you get the picture. It
was about energy and engagement and purpose, something that's been on
abundant display at every SWSi College we've visited. Qualities that
are not just to be found in SWSi, but in TAFE Institutes and Campuses
all across the state. It's great stuff.