Uplifting Indigenous Girls Academy program boosted with $10k funding from Matana Foundation

08 December 2022

A CQUniversity-led program that is improving the welfare of First Nations youngsters while encouraging them to stay in school has received a $10'000 boost from one of its primary supporters' the Matana Foundation for Young People.

The Indigenous Girls Academy is a partnership between CQU' the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)' QCoal Foundation' and the Matana Foundation for Young People' and works with young girls at Mount Morgan State High School and Baralaba State School – on Gangulu Country.

The program' which commenced this year' is based on the principles of respectful relationships' strengths-based and place-based approaches' as well as cultural support and wellbeing.

CQU Senior Coordinator Student Engagement - Regional and Project Lead' Wes Heberlein said the fresh funding from the Matana Foundation would ensure the Indigenous Girls Academy continued its vital work.

"To run a program like the Indigenous Girls Academy requires support and it was great to receive this funding from the Matana Foundation for these young people'" he said.

"Our priorities around improving the welfare and wellbeing of young people from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds just align perfectly."

The funding enabled the delivery of two leadership camps – a Junior Indigenous Girls Academy Camp for year 7 - 10 students and a Senior Indigenous Girls Academy Camp for year 11 and 12 students.

The junior camp was held at CQU's Rockhampton North campus where students experienced what it was like living at the student residence' participating in TAFE and university classes' as well as engaging in cultural experiences at the Rockhampton Museum of Art and the Dreamtime Cultural Centre.

The senior camp was held at Blackdown Tableland on Ghungalu Country and gave the students the opportunity to engage in cultural experiences on-country through a smoking ceremony' conducted by Elder Aunty Pat and First Nations photography by Melissa Mills Studio.

Mr Heberlein said the Indigenous Girls Academy builds upon existing long-term relationships through CQU's Widening Participation school outreach program' CQUni Connect.

"The girls have participated in weekly sessions facilitated by Project Support Officer Charise Iosua focusing on career education and guidance' health and wellbeing promotion' cultural support and wellbeing' mentoring and supporting participation in education through school and external providers'" he said.

"For many of the junior girls it was one of the first camps that they had been on and leaving their community for even a few days is a big step.

"The girls from each school had not met each other before and developed some strong relationships throughout the four-day camp."

"The program has exposed the participants to hands-on experience and different career choices. They've also mixed with and forged life-long friendships with other students and touched upon their Aboriginality and talked about their birthplaces' totems and culture' and what it means to them."

"The girls have also developed the confidence and positivity to open up and talk freely about themselves as students' girls/women' and First Nations People. The camps have also boosted their confidence whilst learning in a fun' safe setting."

CQU is seeking further philanthropic support to deliver additional Indigenous Girls Academy initiatives in 2023 and 2024. Please contact ourpartners@cqu.edu.au for further information.