EIGHT-year-old Breanna Riley was the first student from Sydney's newest school to arrive and pick up her uniform on Friday.
''She rang the whole family and said, 'I'm going to a new school'," said her mother, Michelle. "She said, 'There's blackfellas in the school'.''
This week an all-Aboriginal urban primary school, believed to be the first of its kind, will open in Redfern.
Redfern Jarjum College was the dream of Jesuit community advocate and volunteer of 25 years Ailsa Gillett, who runs free breakfast and outreach programs for indigenous children in the inner-city suburb.
''I could see all these wonderful, spirited, talented young kids in different areas who were missing their education for any number of reasons,'' she said.
Originally sponsored by St Aloysius College, where Ms Gillett works as an executive assistant, the school has also been made possible by support from the Catholic Block Grant Authority, the Sydney Archdiocese and donations from the Jesuit community.
A $2.8 million refurbishment of the school building, which sits next to the St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on Redfern Street and was once popular with squatters, is still a week from completion, so the first three days of classes will be off-site.
The principal, Beatrice Sheen, who is Aboriginal, said it had been a "privilege and an honour" to help develop the school and its curriculum over the past two years.
The first intake of 17 students comes from all levels of primary school, with four in kindergarten. Most have struggled, in different ways, at other schools.
Small class sizes and individual learning plans would be key to its success, Ms Sheen said.
"Schools do not cater for Aboriginal students," she said. "The classes are too big and they can't concentrate on a little group."
Students will be transported to and from school, and uniforms, lunches and other activities are also included as part of a child's free enrolment.
An Aboriginal advisory group has been set up to advise the school council on cultural issues.
Ms Riley said the commitment to teaching kids about their heritage and culture was one of the reasons she moved Breanna from a nearby Catholic school to Jarjum. Little things, such as being served her people's totem animal - the kangaroo - for lunch, would not be a problem here, she said.
''That's all part of reconciliation, too,'' she said.
Ms Gillett said it was almost hard to believe the dream was coming to fruition.
''What we're aiming for is to have this education where the children will have a love of learning, of pride in their own Aboriginality and from there on we can chose the right school for them in secondary education,'' she said.