Two Indigenous students from a remote community in Arnhem Land will create history when they graduate from Year 12 this month.
The teenagers, Christella Namundja and Kirsty Garnarradj, from Gunbalanya, 300km east of Darwin, are the first girls from their community ever to graduate and are part of a group of 60 Aboriginal girls who completed Year 12 this year.
The students have overcome enormous challenges to finish their schooling. They are graduates from the Role Models and Leaders Academy (RMLA) – a mentoring program focused on increasing the school retention rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls.
CEO and founder of RMLA, Ricky Grace, said the number of girls enrolled in the program had increased by nearly 160 per cent in the past three years.
“This year we had around 60 Aboriginal girls in Year 12 at RMLA academies in Western Australia, North Territory and NSW. In 2010, we had just 34 girls,” he said.
“This is such an incredible achievement as these girls have overcome challenges that you and I couldn’t even imagine.”
“The RMLA program is changing the lives of many people by giving young women hope and opportunity to become role models for their community and for the rest of Australia.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda
Mr Grace said many of the current and past graduates of RMLA academies have ambitions to work in their communities to improve living conditions. But he said there was no magic formula behind the program’s success.
“I lived a lot on the streets growing up in the US and was connected to a lot of sporting organisations who had good mentors. Those mentors really helped me get on the straight and narrow.”
Mr Grace, who played professional basketball for the Perth Wildcats and competed in the Sydney Olympic Games, said the RMLA program focuses on one-on-one mentoring.
“It’s common for our leaders to go to the girls homes and get them out of bed and wait for them to get ready so they can take them to school, or convince family members of the importance of an education. That’s how intense and focused this program is.”
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, congratulated the students and RMLA.
“The RMLA program is changing the lives of many people by giving young women hope and opportunity to become role models for their community and for the rest of Australia.” Commissioner Gooda said.
Facts and Figures
- More than 850 girls are currently enrolled in RMLA girls academies across Australia.
- 60 Aboriginal Girls graduated Year 12 this year compared with 34 in 2012.
- 12 RMLA academies in NSW, WA and NT compared with just 1 in 2006.
- Attendance rates of Indigenous girls in RMLA academies in the NT this year was 71.5 per cent – 5 per cent higher than the rest of the Indigenous student population.
INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY - Meet the girls and their mentors in Sydney
(Parking is available underneath the building. Please RSVP so we can ensure a parking space for you.)
Tuesday, December 10 at 11.30am.
For more information contact:
Ph: (02) 8756 2388
Mobile: 0406 403 397
Role Models & Leaders Australia
Ph: 1300 833 904
Mobile: 0412 200 619