Ebene News – UA – ‘Devastated, stunned’: Charity program behind Girls Academy for Indigenous students loses funding

Staff and community members say they are shocked after the charity that runs the Girls Academy, founded by former Wildcats player Ricky Grace, missed federal funding for its flagship school mentoring for Indigenous girls

The federal government has instead supported new providers to offer what it claims to be an expanded service

While the news has been greeted with dismay by some, other Indigenous leaders say the government’s decision not to provide additional funding to the charity M Grace Role Models and Leaders Australia Ltd (RMLA) is an opportunity to ‘rethink’ the way education and support services are delivered to indigenous girls

Girls Academy was established in 2004 by M Grace via RMLA as an in-school support and mentoring program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, with a focus on increasing school attendance and graduation rates

It is broadcast to 46 schools in Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, and has enrolled around 2,800 students this year

But on December 22, Girls Academy staff received a letter stating that RMLA had failed to secure a grant from the federal government, raising concerns about the future of the program and safety staff employment

According to its website, Girls Academy employs 150 people across the country, 70% of whom are indigenous

Several staff and community members took to Facebook to share their shock, including Girls Academy WA’s general manager of operations Narelle Henry, who wrote that she was “devastated”, “disillusioned” and “stunned” five days after hearing the news

“These are just a few of the emotional roller coasters I have been through this week and these are just a few of the words used by the staff at Girls Academy to describe how they feel currently, “Ms Henry wrote on Facebook

“Despite our executive’s best efforts to find a way to reassure our teams and students about their future, our frontline staff are left to pick up the pieces and address the concerns of parents, students and members of the anxious community”

Others praised Girls Academy’s work, including Lisa Rennie who took to Facebook to express her support for the program

“My daughter is thriving with Girls Academy – not just my daughter, but all the young girls in town are thriving,” she wrote

Former Girls’ Academy students Christal Quartermaine and Kristel Cooke previously told ABC the program has transformed their school experiences and helped them create a better future for themselves.

Ms Quartermaine, who struggled with a family tragedy during her high school years, said that without the support of her school, and in particular the Girls Academy, she didn’t think she would have survived

A newsletter from the Girls Academy of M Grace last year reported that 932% of Grade 12 students at Girls Academy in 2018 completed grade 12 or got a job before graduating from high school.This result was up from 84% in 2017 and 789 % in 2016

A spokesperson for Australian Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt said the federal government will continue to fund Girls Academy’s services, but will be expanded and managed by different providers

The spokesperson said that the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) informed RMLA in July that their contract would be extended until the end of 2020 and that the NIAA would conduct a grant process to select the suppliers to provide Girls Academy services January 2021

“This process has now taken place and providers have been selected to continue and expand Girls Academy’s services,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the government will increase spending on Girls Academy programs over the next three years by funding “2,700 more places in Australia”

“The NIAA works closely with inbound and outbound providers to ensure a smooth transition of services, including ensuring existing staff are offered employment opportunities with inbound Girls Academy providers.” , said the spokesperson

In 2019, M Grace, former captain of the Perth Wildcats, has been named a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the state’s indigenous community through the academy

A month later, the national regulator – the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) – began investigating RMLA after “receiving concerns” about aspects of the organization’s management However, he ended the investigation later in the year, noting that the RMLA had taken substantial steps to strengthen its governance.

A woman Gidja and Labor member of Kimberley State Josie Farrer said the shocking news about the Girls’ Academy created an opportunity to rethink the way education and support services are delivered to girls indigenous

“I think in some parts it’s good, but some parts failed,” said Ms Farrer “Why do we have young school leavers just dropping out of school because this girl is expecting a baby, where’s the support for this girl? ”

Ms Farrer said the lack of consultation with people living in remote communities led some girls to miss out on services offered in schools in the city

“This is where, as a society, we really failed, because we don’t capture the opinions of all these young women,” she said

“The Girls Academy could offer a lot more if they had the contribution of their own young people”

Ms Farrer said that during her eight years in the state parliament, she struggled to lobby for education in remote areas

“Most MPs live in cities, so they don’t really understand remote areas and how services are delivered,” she said

“My dream was to see a huge college built in the Kimberley … and we could bring in people who have worked in these fields, ex-teachers, ex-cops, ex-whatever, and use the knowledge that ‘they have acquired the years “

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Ricky Grace, fundraiser, Ken Wyatt, school

Ebene News – UA – “Devastated, amazed”: Charity program behind Girls Academy for Indigenous students loses funding

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-30/ricky-grace-loses-girls-academy-federal-funding/13019098