This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Polly Farmer Foundation’s first program, Follow the Dream, which gives Aboriginal children the opportunity to get a better education and access support to achieve their goals in life.
Today, the Foundation runs four programs—Follow the Dream, Learning Clubs, STEM Centres and the Alumni Network—at over 138 locations across Australia. Primary, secondary and post-school students are able to access in‑school and after‑school tutoring and mentoring, as well targeted opportunities and experiences, and scholarships and bursaries for post‑school training and education.
The Foundation’s 25th anniversary was celebrated at an event with over 250 invited guests at Fraser’s Restaurant in Kings Park, including Foundation alumni spanning two decades, politicians, employees, and other long-time supporters and funding partners in government and the corporate sector.
Many thousands of Aboriginal students have taken part in the Foundation’s programs over the past 25 years, with more than 90 per cent of those children completing Year 12. Some of the early alumni include successful Aboriginal business people and leaders Clinton Walker, the joint master of ceremonies on the night, and cultural advisor Jolleen Hicks, to today’s more recent graduates like Broome’s Joseph Bin Omar and Cassandra Dempsey, the granddaughter of Polly’s good mate and football legend in his own right, Bill Dempsey. Cassandra is now studying at Curtin University with the dream of developing health education programs for young people in Aboriginal communities and she gives back by tutoring Aboriginal high school students through a Foundation program at a high school in Armadale.
Polly’s daughter and Vice Chair of the Foundation, Kim Farmer, said, “dad left behind an amazing legacy—the education and support of thousands of Aboriginal children across Australia, many of whom are leaders in their own right today. My family now includes those that went through the programs and will forever be Farmer kids too.”
Polly knew the value of education—as a child who did not know his parents, taken at just 21 months of age to Sister Kate’s orphanage, he wanted to ensure that other Aboriginal children had the opportunity to fulfil their dreams through learning. Twenty-five years of ground breaking programs are a testament to the success of Polly’s legacy and vision which was not to use sport to keep children interested in school, but to work with children who want to learn and provide them with the academic support they need.
Clinton Walker, one of the Foundation’s first students from Roebourne was the joint MC at the celebration event with Marleigh Zada who attended Port Augusta FTD and later Mt Lawley FTD. Denice Kickett, whose children are Follow the Dream alumni, performed a heartfelt welcome to country after a smoking ceremony by Ngalak Ninja. Albany FTD alumni Amos Smith played the digeridoo, Hedland FTD alumni David Clarke provided acoustic entertainment supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander DJs 2LUBLY.
Mandy Gadsdon, Kim Farmer, Broome FTD alumni Joey Bin Omar and Cecil Andrews FTD alumni Cassie Dempsey (granddaughter of football great Bill Dempsey) were part of a panel answering questions on the past, present and future of the Foundation. Painted footballs by talented FTD student Jasmyn Ihanimo were given away along with tickets to a fully catered corporate box to see the Wildcats by alumni events partner RAC Arena. Robert French presented retired board member and PFF champion Fred Chaney with a thank you gift. All major partners were represented at the celebration. Many thanks to all staff who came along and supported the event.