It all started with Prime Minister (1983-1991) Bob Hawke’s son Steve wanting to write a book about one of Australia’s greatest Aboriginal footballers Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. Steve starts his book Polly Farmer: A Biography with a dedication, stating:
“My hope is that this book will not only stand as a tribute to one of Australia’s greatest sporting sons, but will also help contribute in a small way to realising one of his dreams. Graham Farmer’s greatest attributes as a footballer was an unparalleled ability to create openings and opportunities for those around him – to bring them into the play. In 23 seasons of football, from the suburban leagues of Perth through to the elite levels of the game, this was his hallmark. Twenty-three years after his last competitive game, the tradition will be continued at another level…Graham and Marlene were initially reluctant to see his life story written, but they saw it above all as a chance to bring to fruition their ideas of the Polly Farmer Foundation. The biography and the Foundation have slowly taken shape together.”

Steve Hawke 1994

Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer’s dream could only be made a reality through the support and hard work of a group of dedicated people.


HON FRED CHANEY AO, Vice President

“In my view there is no silver rule or golden key, but education is the one thing that is a condition precedent in giving aboriginal people a proper place in Australia, there is no question of that in my mind. I have spent my whole lifetime thinking about that.”


DR RON EDWARDS, Board Member

“The original concept with the Foundation was always going to be about education and sport. But the question was – how are we going to do it? So one of the first things we did was go off and try and find out where the gaps were. We thought we’d give a prize to an Aboriginal student graduating in the north, the mid west and the south west; maybe one boy and one girl. You know what, there weren’t any. So right then we knew what our job was; to try and get Indigenous kids on to year 12 and then into university.”

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“The model we were developing was based on providing an after school program for indigenous secondary school students who wanted to achieve and to finish high school. The Foundation’s role was to manage the project through a local steering committee and to raise funds and basically to provide the glue to hold everything together if and when it was needed. Other important findings to come out of our research were, not surprisingly, that Aboriginal people pretty much wanted what we want for our own children.”

Mark Simpson


“I was appointed to work for Hamersley Iron in 1996 to achieve two goals – establish the Gumula Mirnuwarni program and support the development of cultural awareness training by Aboriginal people for Hamersley. I worked with Bernie Ryder, and together we started developing the program by consulting with the community and creating a robust model. It was all very new at that time as no other Aboriginal education programs like this existed.”

Bernie Ryder


“I just wish that people could see what it’s got to offer, what it can do for our kids, and what it can do for our community and get behind it and back it.” Bernie Ryder was integral in the initial development of the Foundation’s programme in Karratha and understood the importance of community partnership with the Programme to ensure success.”

SHENARA SMITH, Inaugural Student

“There were quite a lot of kids in the Karratha program and that made doing it enjoyable as you were not always by yourself; it became a social thing as well as a work thing.”

DONNA DAVIES, Parent of Former Student Kununurra

“I can absolutely say that without the program none of these kids would have done as well as they did, regardless of how smart they were.”