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Polly Farmer Foundation alumni join eminent West Australians to mark 25 years of blazing trails for Indigenous students

Tom Zaunmayr -

For more than two decades Polly Farmer Foundation alumni have been flying high in the business, community and cultural worlds.

The Foundation, set up by one of Australia's greatest Indigenous footballers, on Thursday celebrated its 25th anniversary with students, alumni and supporters in a reception at Mooro Kaarta (Kings Park).

The faces in the room were a testament to the success of the program - Indigenous business, cultural, sport and community leaders from all corners of WA, many of who were supported by the program, mingled among some of the State's most eminent residents overlooking the Boorloo (Perth) skyline.

Jayden Boundry performs a smoking ceremony at Polly Farmer Foundation's 25th anniversary.

Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi man Clinton Walker was among the Foundation's first cohort of 23 students from Ieramugadu (Roebourne) and Karratha in 1997.

After graduating, Mr Walker held down roles in mining, oil and gas and construction before pursuing his dream of showcasing his ngurra (Country) to the world.

Now at the helm of the Pilbara's most successful tourism business and having recently welcomed his third child into the world, Mr Walker can't help but be proud of the dreams the current crop of students are aspiring to.

"I was just watching a video that is going to be shown tonight and in that video there is a young girl from Roebourne from the Lockyer family, a well-known family in the Pilbara, who is aspiring to be a psychologist," he said.

"That is pretty amazing she has that aspiration to chase that to help people in her community.

"It is something my generation would never have even thought about doing.

"The opportunities infront of us were working in the mining industry - where companies like Rio Tinto and Woodside who funded this back in the early days helped to give us a place to want to chase our dreams."

Mr Walker said the Foundation's strength was in its ability to open students up to opportunities at home and further afield.

Barkindji and Afghan woman Marleigh Zada's journey with the Foundation was different, but her trajectory is already showing the same promise as those who walked the path before her.

Born the same year as the Foundation and having moved from South Australia in year 10, Ms Zada was supported through the "hectic" transition from country to city life by the organisation.

Amos Smith performs at Polly Farmer Foundation's 25th anniversary.

Once supported through her education, Ms Zada is now hoping to be the inspiration for the next generation of Indigenous students undertaking tertiary education.

"I am currently working with the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin and I faciliatate cultural awareness opprtunities for Curtin University staff and stakeholders, and sometime students as well.

"My passion is around helping other young mob like me who are coming to university and don't know what they are doing.

"I would love to be in the education sector, whether it is educating non-Indigenous people on culture, whether it is educating our young ones more into our culture and getting them through progressing into tertiary education."

One of about 2700 students supported by the Foundation across Australia, Amos Smith took part in the Follow the Dream program in Kinjarling (Albany) which set him on a course to Guildford Grammar boarding school and onto UWA where he is now studying conservation biology.

"Part of the reason I am studying that is because I feel like there is a part of me in my heart where we got to be curious about our country," he said.

"The world we are living in now we keep taking and taking, and not giving back.

"I want to try do what I can in my lifetime to bring back a bit of balance and acquire knowledge about how we can make a difference with the environment and the way we treat it."

Mr Smith was among the alumni to perform on the night, playing the yidaki for the gathered crowd.

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