Roni Forrest, a Minang Ngadju woman from the south coast of Western Australia, coordinates Future Footprints, a program supporting rural and remote Indigenous boarding students.

Roni and Aboriginal Liaison Officer Lisa Fieldhouse work together with communities, parents, schools, sponsors and other networks. 

Roni, grew up as a ‘bush kid’ on the south coast of WA before moving to the city for high school.

‘I experienced chronic homesickness, alienation and isolation as a country kid,’ says Forrest.

‘So, I understand the challenges our boarding students face.’

‘When I was younger, I was never given any advice or support. I had to find my own path.’

‘One thing I do remember was that I was in turmoil about my identity.’

‘Having lived in a small country town in the 60s was not easy because of racism and exclusion.’

‘I realised early on that it was up to me to always preserve my own unique cultural identity – to be proud of it – be proud of me – as there is no one quite like me. And that’s got me everywhere!’

‘I am a very strong cultural woman – it’s the essence of us as Aboriginal people.’

‘Knowing where I come from allows me to know where I am going. I instil this in my students – be proud,’ Forrest says.  

The Future Footprints program, part of the Association of Independent Schools WA (AISWA), won the award for Exceptional Contribution to Indigenous Student Boardingat the 2019 National Indigenous Education and Boarding Symposium.

‘This award recognises the impact that our support is having on boarding schools,’ says Forrest pictured with JJ Roma (left) and John Herd (right) at the National Indigenous Education and Boarding Symposium Awards Night.

‘We do whatever it takes to get our students and families the best education.’

‘We do whatever it takes to get our students to return home and be productive, resourceful and meaningful people for their communities.’

‘We have had such amazing success in graduation and retention rates. Last year we had 63 Year 12s graduate and are on track again this year.’

‘I want young Aboriginal people to take advantage of every opportunity.’

‘I want them to never underestimate themselves and their worth.’ 

‘I tell them they can have anything they want if they work hard, create positive relationships and make good choices.’ 

‘In my work with Future Footprints, I have seen our young people speaking their truths and advocating for other students.’

‘They are taking part in national academic and sporting events, meeting sport stars and parliamentarians.’

‘They are also travelling the world.’

‘Throughout all this they are strongly representing their people and community.’

‘Most of all they are graduating from school.’

 ‘As Nelson Mandela said, Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’