Why Holy Spirit College?
Early consideration of the concept recognized an opportunity for a Diocesan contribution to “Closing the Gap” strategies, an outreach into the more remote regions of the Diocese, and a further contribution of the Catholic mission to serve the disadvantaged and marginalized. It was felt that Catholic Education in Cairns with nearly 10,000 students in 26 schools and colleges, and with an established system of management, reporting and accountability, had the capacity to develop an additional service for outreach to disengaged young people.
In 2010, the Diocese produced its Pathways for Life document: An overview of strategic vocational proposals for 2010-2014. In this document Flexible Learning Centres (FLCs) were identified for further investigation and it was recommended that there should be an exploration of the feasibility of a flexible learning educational service in support of disengaged and at risk students in the City of Cairns run by the Cairns Catholic Education Services. This resulted in two scoping studies by James Cook University – the first identified the need for a small residential facility in Cooktown for Indigenous students while the second study found a largely unmet demand for education for disengaged students in the Cairns area.
The findings of these studies progressed the discussion and resulted in a trial of a flexible learning program in Cairns in 2011 in partnership with Youth Justice in the Department of Communities. There has also been consultation regarding a similar program in partnership with the Gungarde Aboriginal Corporation in Cooktown.
The Diocesan Board of Governance Education, at its June 14, 2011 meeting gave in principle support to the concept of a Special Assistance School and asked for a Business Case to be developed. In 2012 the Non-State Schools accreditation Board approved the application for ‘Special Assistance School’ accreditation for Moignard St Manoora, Cairns and for Cooktown on the cnr of Amos and Burkitt streets, also for 32 Quarantine Bay Rd Cooktown.
The Cairns Diocese received $9million from the State Government for the building of two sites in Cairns and Cooktown. Building commenced in July 2014 on both sites. The completion for Cairns was in May 2015 and Cooktown in July 2015. While the Cairns Campus, in Moignard Street, was not completed for the start of the 2015 school year, the staff decided to open the school to young people and hold classes in the half of the site which was completed. At the same time staff employed to assist with the establishment of the Cooktown Campus established an Outreach Program to engage with young people in the Hopevale and Wujal Wujal communities. Both campuses enrol students in years 7-12.
Today Holy Spirit College is an inclusive environment which is open to young people who are disengaged from ‘mainstream’ schooling. It offers individualised secondary education programs. The ‘Holy Spirit College’ provides a variety of innovative teaching and learning practices that acknowledges young people’s complex education and social needs and empowers them to identify and pursue individual transition to adulthood, further education, employment and importantly a connection to the community. Staff at the College are multi-disciplinary in response to the diverse needs of young people and their families.