It is an important time for Boarding Australia. For many years we have been moving towards becoming a leadership organisation in the Indigenous boarding sector with a particular focus on closing the education gap for students through boarding.
In the past 15 months since the last Annual General Meeting (AGM) we have:
- welcomed Greg Franks as our Chief Executive Officer
- committed resources to positioning Boarding Australia to be an active and relevant leader in Indigenous education and boarding
- developed our strategic plan
- held our first Indigenous education and boarding symposium
- organised five regional workshops
- participated on a variety of committees
- published the quarterly Boarding Buzz and posted on Facebook regularly
- released video interviews with Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM and Genevieve Hassall, Prime Minister and Cabinet
- jointly awarded the inaugural Excellence in Indigenous Boarding Award with ABSA
Indigenous education and boarding are complex challenges that require complex solutions beyond any single organisation. In Canberra in March this year Boarding Australia hosted its first Indigenous education and boarding symposium. This symposium has created momentum and opened a dialogue between organisations and sectors on the priorities to be addressed.
The symposium also identified the need for cross-sector partnerships and communication. Boarding Australia is working collectively with governments, other peak bodies and other organisations to bring about lasting change to the multifaceted problem of Indigenous education and boarding. Planning for the 2019 symposium is well underway.
Changes to the Boarding Australia Constitution proposed at this AGM will facilitate the organisation to better represent the interests of Indigenous boarding. This includes raising the voices of Indigenous families and communities where boarding is the only option for secondary schooling.
Boarding Australia has developed its strategic plan for the next three years. This plan will position us as a relevant organisation with a central role in activating the Indigenous education and boarding sector to work to close the education gap.
To do so Boarding Australia will:
- build strong relationships with all key stakeholders
- continue to promote the adoption of quality boarding standards
- actively provide a voice and leadership for the Indigenous boarding sector
- be a sustainable organisation.
This repositioning of Boarding Australia has required reshaping the organisation and the development of a new business model. This is still going to take some time to be effective but is essential if we are going to continue to be the leadership organisation we seek to be.
Funding issues in the sector are significant and it is clear that whilst ABSTUDY is central to funding, it is important that all boarding schools and residences maximise their funding. We are aiming to present workshops to help providers gain the skills and put in place systems that will achieve maximum ABSTUDY funding.
Having said that we believe funding for boarding should not be treated as a welfare issue and Boarding Australia will continue to lobby for funding to be provided through education at adequate levels to recognise the learning environment boarding provides.
One of most important activities in the coming year is giving voice to families of Indigenous boarding students. This will be a significant task of the Board in 2019.
Other plans are being made to better support boarding and education staff in working collectively, attending cultural competency and leadership training sessions and accessing online resources.
As President it is also important to note the service of Boarding Australia’s hard working and dedicated directors. They make an essential contribution to the ability of Boarding Australia to undertake its critical agenda.
Of particular note is acknowledgement of the contribution of Jim Hopkins. Jim has been awarded life membership of Boarding Australia having been a director since our inception as NARSA in 1995. As Jim steps away from his role to make way for new directors we look forward to his continuing contribution in other ways.
In 2019 Boarding Australia is boldly moving to become a lead organisation for Indigenous student boarding and we welcome all boarding schools and residences to join us and commit to doing whatever it takes to closing the Indigenous education gap through boarding.
Anthony Bennett, President Boarding Australia