Bond University and the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia have been named winners of the Premier’s Reconciliation Award for the Women Yarning Up initiative at the 2016 Queensland Reconciliation Awards.
In addition to taking out the major award of the evening, Women Yarning Up – which was devised by Bond’s Pathways and Partnerships team – also received highly-commended in the Partnerships category.
The annual awards program recognises businesses, community organisations, educational institutions and partnerships that foster reconciliation in Queensland.
2016 marks almost five years since the introduction of Bond’s Indigenous Scholarship program which has seen 43 students graduate and a further 66 currently enrolled.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Women Yarning Up has been recognised in this way,” said Pro Vice-Chancellor Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan who developed the initiative with Bond Indigenous Fellow, Leann Wilson.
“Having worked together in various government and education roles over many years, Leann and I believed there was a need to highlight the challenges facing young Indigenous people when they leave their communities to attend high school, and why their retention and completion rates lag behind those of other students.
“Bond’s partnership with the Alliance, which was formalised in 2014, provided the ideal opportunity to work on this issue with Principals from some of Australia’s leading girls’ schools and illustrate the importance of a seamless transition from community to secondary schooling and continuing on to university.”
Since the Indigenous Scholarship Program commenced in 2012, Bond has maintained a 95 percent retention rate for its Indigenous students, compared to the national average of 71 percent.
“Bond’s cohesive working environments, dedicated study assistance and encouraged community networks and cultural linkages have played a huge part in achieving a consistently high retention,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
The Women Yarning Up project involved taking small groups of Alliance Principals and high profile businesswomen to Lockhart River (2014) and the Torres Strait Islands (2015) for a unique ‘immersion in community’ experience.
The five-day itineraries included formal presentations from schools and community authorities, as well as informal gatherings where delegates had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with parents, children and elders.
“It has been an extraordinarily meaningful and life-changing experience for the participants, the communities and for us as organisers but, most importantly, Women Yarning Up has resulted in real change,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
“These Principals have returned to their schools and introduced new procedures to help children transition into life as a boarder; they’ve created new staff positions to liaise with Indigenous families; they’ve introduced Indigenous scholarships; and they’ve expanded their engagement with their own local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“From our businesswomen delegates, there have also been some amazing outcomes, including Cathie Reid from Epic Pharmacy Group invigorating their foundation and contributing significant funds to strongly support Indigenous participation.”
Demand from interested participants has now grown to the point where, for 2016, Woman Yarning Up will become Yarning Up as the invitation is extended to both men and women for this year’s visit to Lockhart River.
The 2016 Queensland Reconciliation Awards were announced at a gala dinner in Townsville on Thursday, June 2.
Pictured: Catherine O’Sullivan