Former WA Deputy Premier Kim Hames is calling on Canberra to increase funding for a not-for-profit Aboriginal education organisation, saying schooling may hold the key to ‘closing the gap’.
Dr Hames, who retired from WA politics before the recent state election, is championing the Madalah organization as its new chairman.
He is due to meet federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt in Canberra this week.
Meanwhile, Madalah – which provides scholarships for Indigenous students wanting to attend approved secondary schools and universities – is holding a second annual fundraising ball in June.
“Madalah has had great success — the only issue being that initially there was quite a lot more funding,” Dr Hames said.
“Julie Bishop set up a program that was extremely successful, but it was phased out and replaced with another program (and) there isn’t the same degree of funding that there was before.
“I’m going to go and meet Nigel Scullion to try to convince him to take things back to the level they were at previously.
“Madalah’s funding has gone to about a half to a third of the funding we had three or four years ago.”
Madalah provides scholarships for Indigenous students from remote areas to complete secondary and tertiary studies or traineeships and also provides accommodation and support in the state’s north-west to help Indigenous people move into the workforce.
The scholarship program has been going since 2009. Eleven of WA’s top private schools including Christ Church Grammar School, Aquinas College, Penhros College, St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School and Trinity College are involved.
Dr Hames, a former Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Court Liberal government of the late ’90s, said programs such as Madalah’s were important.
“Particularly in the difficulties governments have in closing the gap on Indigenous lifespans,” he said.
“It was something I worked hard on as both Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for Health, but the reports coming back in from the Federal Government are that the gap just isn’t being closed.
“One thing that was clear from that report was that where Aboriginal people are well educated, there is no gap in life expectancy.
“So it’s critically important as the way to move forward, I think, to speak to the Commonwealth Government and look to that method of trying to improve education to reduce that gap.
“It’s hard to do that in a bulk form, but there are people out there who happen to do extremely well with their education and become rolemodels for Aboriginal people from their communities.
“We see that in sport all the time, but we’d like to see it from an education standpoint as well – getting Aboriginal people who have the capacity to reach the highest level of their education and set a good example for others as to what they can achieve.”
* The Madalah Ball will be held at Crown Perth on June 17. The black-tie event will include a three-course dinner with drinks, live entertainment, raffles and an auction. Tickets range in price from $350 for an individual up to package deals for VIP tables. Sponsorship inquiries to Angela Murphy on 0477 264 352.