Redfern Jarjum College: a Jesuit school for urban Aboriginal children in Sydney

Not everything in Australia is large like the country. There is a small Jesuit school in Sydney that stands out in many ways. Redfern Jarjum College offers education to urban Aboriginal children and to children from the Torres Strait Islands who are not participating or not coping in mainstream primary schools as a result of their poverty and domestic circumstances. It serves boys and girls aged between 4 and 13; there are no tuition fees.

What about the name of the school, you will wonder? Jarjum is a local Aboriginal word for “young person” or “child”, and Redfern is simply the townwhere the school is located. The College Crest tells a lot about Redfern Jarjum College. The colours of the crest are those of the Aboriginal flag, emphasising the school’s connection with the local Aboriginal people.

The center of the crest consists of a Christian cross above the letters IHS, an abbreviation of the name of Jesus in Greek. These elements are taken from the monogram of the Society of Jesus, on whose spirit and values the project is based. The second circle of the crest features a sunburst, reflecting the staff’s belief in the hopes and dreams of their students. The outermost circle represents the wider community to which Jarjum College belongs.

Beneath the main crest is a boomerang containing the school motto, “Gili,” which means ‘to shine’ in the Gadigal language. The boomerang assures the students that they will always be welcome to return to Jarjum, and that they will always belong.

We interviewed the school principal, Katherine Zerounian; who had much to tell us about the relevance and the life of her school. We asked her: what is “special” about Jarjum and how it is different from other Jesuit schools in Australia or elsewhere?

Redfern Jarjum College was established as a Catholic school in the Jesuit tradition. Here, Ignatian spirituality, characterised by “finding God in all things”, is being enriched through reverencing and exploring Aboriginal spirituality. It is a Jesuit-owned Catholic primary school responsible to the Provincial of Australia. It was established in 2013 by St Aloysius College, another Jesuit school in Sydney. The goal was to respond to the needs of Aboriginal boys and girls, many of whom previously attended mainstream schooling but did not have success in that environment.

For them, we provide a programme that is overseen by Jesuit Education Australia. The relationship with the Jesuit tradition and the Jesuit Province goes further. Our work is a clear reflection of and commitment to the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus. I would point out the preference titled Walking with the Excluded, for instance. Many of the families that we welcome to Jarjum are experiencing poverty and the impact of intergenerational trauma. We provide hope to those who struggle to find it; we clothe and feed the children and meet their daily basic needs; we recognise and celebrate daily the gifts of each child.


Katherine Zerounian.

We admit a small number of kids and offer them individual attention. In 2024, we have 26 students enrolled. They are split into four classes, depending on their stage of development. Our students all live locally and are picked up each day from their home by the school bus and dropped back at the end of the day.

When we asked Ms Zerounian if she could tell us of a “success story” among former students of Jarjum, she replied:

One of our alumni is entering 11th Grade at a nearby Catholic girls’ school. She has really grown in confidence in her academic learning and engaged widely in the sporting program. She has just been successful in gaining her first part-time job, where she works on the weekends. Her mother attributes her success in high school to her time at Jarjum, as our school gave her the confidence to see herself as a learner who is capable of success, just like any other student.

The gallery of photos, below, offers a glimpse in the life at Redfern Jarjum College.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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