18 September 2018 Noble Park

Noble Park award participants Cara Hooper-Ford, Jonathan Manoj, Chenda Pidor, Huy Vu and co-ordinator Sean Dickson

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award reaches back to its working-class roots

More than 90 per cent of them are from non-English speaking backgrounds and they span 51 nationalities. But the students of Noble Park Secondary College are finding new opportunities through a program designed by the Queen’s husband more than 60 years ago.

A group of 20 culturally diverse Year 10 students from Melbourne’s Noble Park have been part of a year-long Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program, as the initiative shifts it focus to helping migrant and refugee youth. They camp and climb rocks, make beds for the homeless and play sports. Students and teachers say it has opened doors for students with difficult histories.

Jonathan Manoj, 15, came to Australia from India when he was 10 and had little English. He said the program’s new focus gave children like him a chance to learn new skills and bond with classmates despite any linguistic or cultural barriers.

“I really liked the adventure journeys, the camps we went on and the homelessness project we’ve been doing after school,” he said. “And you get to pick the physical activities you like. It helps us to come together and try new things.”

The public school in the heart of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ electorate has been able to sign up to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award with a $10,000 grant from the state government.

The program wants more schools from lower socio-economic areas to apply for the grants and get their students involved with the program, with an aim of 1 million Victorian participants in the next 50 years.

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was actually started for working-class children displaced after the Second World War, but the well-resourced grammar schools took it up very quickly,” the award’s Australian executive officer, Stephen Mason, told The Australian.