Kindness & Mercy: Gowola Homework Club, Shepparton, Victoria

By Mercy Works, 22 December 2018
Students are seen in the Gowola Homework Club’s home base in Shepparton, Victoria. Image: Mercy Works.


There is furious writing, the of sounds paper ripping and the occasional chair shuffle on a Tuesday afternoon at the Gowola Homework Club. But it wasn’t long ago that the question ‘how to increase the number of aboriginal children completing secondary school?’ was challenging two Koorie Educators, Julie Ferguson and Janelle Atkinson, in the Sandhurst Diocese of Victoria.

Back: Gowola Homework Club educators Janelle Atkinson, Jamie Atkinson, Julie Ferguson and Front: Mercy Access staff members Sisters Agnes Murphy and Shirley Garland RSM. Image: Mercy Works

From building interest and numbers, the club now has regulars that put homework and learning above the enticing summer afternoons that could be spent outside. Doing homework and in the process having fun along with the encouragement and assistance of the committed volunteers are the key ingredients to the success that this Homework Club has experienced in its 2-year existence.

Julie and Janelle have been instrumental in the set up and continued success of this initiative, which has now become an integral part of the Mercy Access Program in Shepparton. They are both proud Yorta Yorta women and their experience as Koorie Educators in Catholic Schools has motivated them to build on their shared passion for education.

The word ‘Gowola’ means kindness or mercy in the Yorta Yorta language and it perfectly describes the underpinning values of this club and how it’s run. The distinct family orientated atmosphere is highlighted by the fact that both Julie and Janelle’s children attend this homework club and help to foster a welcoming environment for both regulars and newcomers.

This initiative would not be possible without committed Mercy Access volunteers and the dedication and direction from Julie and Janelle. Their incredible partnership and shared heritage has allowed them to give the gift of education to more Aboriginal children of Shepparton. Developing the next generation through the power of learning is an amazing achievement. All of these children now have the tools and opportunities to finish their education.

With collaboration from Mercy Works.


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