Clontarf to Curtin: Row AHEAD and Tertiary Affinity

lcj 17 cover.jpgCameron Thorn & Charles Flodin

LCJ: Special Edition: Indigenous Pathways and Transitions into Higher Education, 17, pp. 64-73

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Thorn, C., & Flodin, C. (2015). Clontarf to Curtin: Row AHEAD and Tertiary Affinity. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Indigenous Pathways and Transitions into Higher Education], 17, 64-73. DOI:



In Western Australia, and around the world, rowing is a sport that is often associated with elite private schools and tertiary institutions (Cambridge University Boat Club, 2013; Yale Athletics, 2010; Oxford University Boat Club, 2015; Melbourne University Boat Club, 2015). Events like the Boat Race, an annual rowing event for the top Oxford and Cambridge University crews, and the Henley Royal Regatta, held on the Thames River since 1839, serve to reinforce the elitist history of the sport. In a more local context, rowing in Western Australia is predominantly facilitated by a number of high-fee-paying secondary schools running their own competitions for male and female students throughout the year. 

Despite the majority of these schools supporting Indigenous students via full academic and boarding scholarships, it is estimated that a maximum of 20 Indigenous students have participated in rowing in some way over the past 10 years. On a national level, Indigenous participation is estimated to be about 0.01% (L. Callier, pers. comm. May 8, 2014). The program designers believed it was worth noting that Indigenous higher education students make up around 2% of the national higher education student body (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). The designers believed that these participation rates were worth highlighting, given the historical development of the sport of rowing, and could add value to the delivery of the program and narrative of the participant journey, resulting from an increase in engagement. A program was designed to engage Indigenous students in the sport of rowing, and support them through an aspiration and awareness-raising curriculum. 


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