Girls Academy welcomes the Federal Government’s continued commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in the 2020-2021 Federal Budget handed down this month.
“We are painfully aware of the growing need for our program in many other schools around Australia and will continue to advocate for increased funding so that we can support more girls into the future,” Girls Academy CEO Ricky Grace said.
“We truly believe that if they are supported these girls will be powerful forces for change not only in their community but in this country.”
Girls Academy has built a strong working relationship with government, at federal and state levels, to ensure that our funding improves the educational outcomes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls in our program.
“I can only speak to the strength of our program, I would not presume to speak for others,” Mr Grace said. “We know that if we can help our students finish school and graduate Year 12, they are more likely to be able to find work or go on to further studyor training.”
The Girls Academy mentoring program works in schools and, crucially, with schools to support the girls through the challenges they face and encourage them to attend school and engage with their education.
“We recently surveyed principals at the schools where we are based, with 100 percent saying Girls Academy staff genuinely care for the students in our program,” Mr Grace said.
“The survey also revealed that 91 percent of principals believe girls would be disadvantaged without our program. We know the difference we are making but it is heartening to hear it from key partners on the ground.”
Girls Academy understands that every girl’s needs are different and they need strong role models to guide them. It’s why our staff, more than 60 percent of whom are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, are crucial to the success of the program.
“Aside from the genuine care they have for our students, these are people who understand the barriers preventing the girls from achieving, and who will do everything they can to help them break through or find another way to reach their goals,” Mr Grace said.
Girls Academy sets goals for attendance and engagement at school and recognises those achievements. Staff also constantly monitor girls who are struggling and work with them to improve at school. They go out of their way to create engaging activities to help girls reconnect.
It is integral to the success of the program that the girls know that they are seen, heard and valued by the people employed to support them.
We also aim to ensure, where possible, that our staff are recruited from the region in which they will work. “We know that this fosters stronger connections with the community and, importantly, keeps jobs in that community,” Mr Grace said.
Girls Academy believes that having strong female role models throughout the organisation is essential. This is reflected in our board and also in the day-to-day running of the program. Our general managers of operations are Aboriginal women who lead a dedicated team of almost 130 staff working directly with the girls.
We have succession plans to ensure our future leaders, including at the executive level, continue to reflect the communities we support.
“We know that we cannot hope to address the needs of the most vulnerable girls without the support of their communities,” Mr Grace said.
“It’s why every Academy has an advisory committee made up of local people, including Elders, who understand the challenges in their community.”
This diverse group provides insight, feedback and wise counsel, all of which support staff in the immediate area, as well as help inform our program overall. As part of our program delivery, we also connect with more than 260 community organisations around Australia, more than two thirds of which are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
Mr Grace said any organisation receiving taxpayer funding should be held accountable for that allocation. It is why in addition to meeting all government requirements, Girls Academy provides comprehensive reports about the progress of our program to all stakeholders each quarter.
“We have worked hard to build policies and procedures that are second to none in this sector,” he said. “We understand that government funding comes with huge responsibility and it is our job to ensure the vast majority of that funding goes directly to benefiting the girls.”