By Kim Farmer, daughter of Polly Farmer, Vice-Chair, and patron of the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation.
Last week West Australians received news of Premier Mark McGowan’s surprise resignation. The news was both sudden for the people of Western Australia and emotional for his political team, judging by the faces of Ministers Templeton and Saffioti. In contrast, standing proudly and barely able to conceal her happiness, was Mr McGowan’s wife. No doubt it was such a relief that her husband was finally stepping down from the top job and walking away from his relentless political demands.
But Premier McGowan’s resignation was not the only resignation that occurred last week (and I am not referring to breaky tv host Kochie). At the Polly Farmer Foundation’s 2023 AGM, the Board accepted the resignation of the former Chair and board member, the Honourable Robert French. And in a McGowan style surprise announcement, we also accepted the resignation of our longest serving and founding member Mr Ron Edwards. Unlike Mr McGowan’s ministers, the remaining Board members did not stand beside them, unhappy in their decisions. We are simply in gratitude for their years of contribution and impact on the now successful Foundation.
In lieu of the departures of our esteemed non-Aboriginal board members, we have welcomed three new Aboriginal board members and an education specialist (Pauline White) to the new Board.
It has been over 25 years of establishing and growing my father’s dream to be able to create a Foundation that will support young Aboriginal people to dream big and follow their dreams. It has been a long journey, built on the challenging work of people like Fred Chaney and many others.
The 2023 AGM was also the first for the Foundation as a registered Aboriginal Corporation under the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations. Today the Board is led by an all-Aboriginal leadership team: Board Chair, Mandy Gadsdon (Yawuru) Vice-Chair, Kim Farmer (Noongar) and Treasurer Ellery Blackman (Gangalidda, Waanyi, Butchulla and Goreng Goreng), and now has 90% Aboriginal representation.
Incoming members include Jeremy Abbott (Pini) the grandson of Bruce Ashwin, who like Polly grew up as part of the Stolen Generations in Sister Kate’s. And according to the Maddington Football Club’s recent centenary book, as a teenager, Bruce cast a formidable shadow over my Dad on the playing field. We also welcomed Marty Skiadis, (Worrorra) the first Aboriginal Engineer to graduate from UWA. Marty was drawn to the Foundation for the early education STEM programs he was seeing in the Pilbara. We are also excited that Joseph Bin Omar (Bard and Nimanburr) becomes our first alumni member, from our newly established Alumni Network, to join the Board. Having recently graduated with a Masters in Public Health, Joseph shared his journey and the Foundation’s impact upon him as a young Aboriginal teenager growing up in Broome.
Dad’s voice and vision can still be felt, heard, and seen in what the Foundation represents and does for our current and future young people.
It is also a time for a new voice in the leadership of the Foundation, which coincides with a time when the country is calling for an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament. It has been a long journey for Aboriginal people to endure the traumas and impacts of colonisation, and it is long overdue for government to call for a referendum for all Australians to overwhelmingly vote for such a Voice to Parliament.
In a recent address at UWA St Catherine’s College, former Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt, AM, spoke of the critical importance of supporting the Voice to Parliament. It was with great pride that we heard Ken provide the Polly Farmer Foundation as an example of what can be done when Aboriginal voices are heard.
Last week one of the Foundation’s partnering organisation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, provided nine STEM University scholarships to Foundation alumni students studying at universities. These Aboriginal students are studying for a Doctor of Medicine, Bachelors of Bio-Medicinal Science and Science, a Post Grad in Medicine, Bachelors of Engineering and a Bachelor of Environmental Science. Their achievements are entirely their own, but I cannot but feel proud that Dad’s long-ago dream is coming true.