Future prospects for Western Australian Aboriginal students just got a lot brighter following an injection of $2.7 million by Rio Tinto into an education program which helps them realise their dreams.
The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation’s Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success program has now been supporting Aboriginal students since 1997 and has helped almost 650 students go on to University, apprenticeships, traineeships or straight into jobs.
Foundation Patron and President Dr Sue Gordon AM said a big part of the program’s ongoing success was its collaboration with the WA Education Department, Aboriginal Corporations and Trusts, corporate partners like Rio Tinto and the students and their parents.
“I’m proud to say it was the first Aboriginal education program of its kind and to this day remains one of the most effective and successful,” Dr Gordon said.
“Education of all our country’s children is one of the most important tasks we must undertake as a society. It is expensive and complex. Education of our country’s Indigenous children is even more expensive and complex: a problem plagued by fragmentation and social complexity.
“We know that Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people alike want this problem fixed, but the complexities surrounding it can seem overwhelming. This is where collaboration is essential.”
Rio Tinto is one of the inaugural corporate supporters of the program and has been a major contributor to the Foundation for the past 17 years.
“This collaborative approach works,” Dr Gordon said. “All parties put aside their different agendas and work towards the common goal of nurturing and supporting a highly disadvantaged group of children through the difficult journey we call schooling.”
Originally the Foundation’s programs focused on high school students, but as a result of contributions from companies like Rio Tinto they also support Aboriginal primary aged children to achieve excellence in the areas of maths and science.
“Giving children the proper foundation in these two subjects directly impacts on their ability to successfully complete the necessary high school subjects to allow them to go on to complete degrees in science, engineering and commerce,” Dr Gordon said.
“These will be our next leaders in the mining industry, our future CEOs of global businesses and hopefully, our first Aboriginal Prime Minister.
“Our Learning Clubs in Tom Price and the newly opened one in Wickham, help all Aboriginal students aged from Kindergarten to Grade Six get the literacy and numeracy support they need to make school a place they want to go to; a place of pride not shame.”
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief executive Andrew Harding said “When I started working in the Pilbara in the mid-1990s very few Aboriginal kids stayed in school and went on to complete apprenticeships or further study.
“Over the past 17 years our partnership with the Foundation has directly supported 162 students to graduate from secondary school.
“Many graduates have gone on to work for Rio Tinto while others have forged successful careers in areas such as the arts, medicine and education. The true power of this partnership is that these graduates are inspiring future generations to take pride in learning, to follow their dreams and to be future leaders,” Mr Harding said.
Since 1997 Rio Tinto has contributed more than $8 million to the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation. This is supporting programs at Wickham, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Carnarvon and Kununurra.
The Foundation’s programs are now in 28 communities across Australia with more than 1000 Indigenous students aged from Kindergarten to Year 12 participating.
Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation President and Patron Dr Sue Gordon, Minister for Education, Aboriginal Affairs and Electoral Affairs Hon Peter Collier MLC and Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director Pilbara Mines Michael Gollschewski with Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success students from Lockridge Senior High School.
Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation Communications and Partnerships Adviser
Lisa Holland-McNair 0407 364 300
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Manager Media, Communications and External Relations
Anthony Havers 0459 847 758