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As the state’s largest-ever number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls prepare to sit their HSC exams, year 12 students Shamika Lamb and Toni Longford had plenty to ponder at the “Be the Change” Indigenous Careers Forum in July.

The Law Society of NSW proudly sponsored the two students to attend the career and study expo held in Sydney during NAIDOC Week.

Shamika travelled from Dubbo in the state’s far west, and Toni came from Melville on the North Coast to attend the one-day expo in Sydney. Both participate in The Girls Academy program, which provides in-school education and mentoring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls.

“In the future I hope to complete my HSC and obtain my driver’s licence but ultimately I would like to go to university and do a nursing degree,” Longford said. “Girls Academy is always helping with assessments and homework.”

“Girls Academy is a place for young Aboriginals to feel comfortable and to have someone other than their parents to talk to,” Lamb said.

“In the future I would really like to finish school and then go to university and graduate. My dream job is to be a lawyer.”

The Girls Academy program supports more than 2500 students in 43 sites across Australia. Each academy has a minimum of two full-time female mentors who provide the students with auntie and sister-style mentoring and support.

President of the Law Society of NSW Elizabeth Espinosa said she was pleased that the Law Society could play a “small part in supporting better outcomes for Indigenous education and helping these young women to succeed.”

“It’s so inspiring to see the impact that The Girls Academy program is making, not just in NSW but all over Australia. 86 per cent of the girls that have completed The Girls Academy program are either in gainful careers or completing tertiary education – what a wonderful outcome,” Espinosa said.

The expo featured some of Australia’s top employers and tertiary education providers, who outlined a wide range of career and study pathways for Indigenous students who will sit their HSC exams later this year. Teachers, relatives and other members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community also attended the event.

Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian recently announced a new Premier’s Priority to increase the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining Year 12 by 50 per cent by 2023, while maintaining their cultural identity.