- Providing the gift of education to Indigenous children will be key to bringing about generational change.
- Yalari is a not-for-profit organisation that provides high school scholarships to Indigenous children in remote communities.
- The Yalari foundation has helped 169 Indigenous students complete their high school education.
“I firmly believe Australia will not be the country it should be until our Indigenous community plays its rightful role in our society. The way to that is through the gift of education to bring about generational change,” says Mary Boydell FCA.
It is a forceful statement that Boydell is backing with action through her role as chairman of Yalari , a not-for-profit organisation providing secondary school scholarships – in partnership with 27 boarding schools – for Indigenous children from regional, remote and rural communities.
"I’m honoured to be involved with a group of people who are dedicated to making a difference."
Boydell is a chartered accountant with significant experience as a non-executive director. She is currently the chairman of Uniquest Pty Limited. She brings a level of governance and financial experience to the organisation. But her interaction with Yalari goes well beyond board meetings.
“I’ve gone to collect a child at 5am from the airport for a Yalari camp because I was the nearest,” she says. “You have to be passionate.”
One student at a time
Since its foundation in 2005, the organisation has helped 169 students complete grade 12, something Boydell describes as “an amazing achievement”. It is no small thing, she says, to select a child for schooling and ensure they are supported appropriately both educationally and personally. It takes commitment from the student, their family, the schools and sponsors.
Boydell gives a very strong voice to the needs of the individual student. It is not, she says, a case of training future community leaders.
In that sense, Yalari is a not a solution to a problem, but provides a pathway to a solution, she says.
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“This is not something that will happen overnight. Moreover, these young children deserve the opportunity to have a choice in life.
”While some of the Yalari scholars may become leaders – one became president of the student union at Sydney University and another is the current president of the student union at Melbourne Univesrsity – others are content to pursue the opportunities that an education opens up to them. However, there is an underlying assumption that each will become a role model in a future version of Australia.
Yalari founder Waverley Stanley was supported by his grade seven teacher, Rosemary Bishop, in gaining an educational scholarship. Yalari scholarships are named in her honour and Stanley’s example of giving back to his community sets the tone for the organisation.
There is an expectation from Waverley that the children give back, that they never forget where they come from, they take their place in the world and take advantage of their education.
"The scholars are not the only ones to benefit from the organisation. “The schools benefit so much from having the Yalari scholars in their midst. We all learn so much from these kids.”
And, ultimately, Boydell hopes Australian society will find a similar benefit from the work being done today.
Tips for CAs
Accountants are well placed through experience, training and professional support networks to give back to their communities, Boydell says.
“You should only do this if you passionately believe in the things you are doing. I’m honoured to be involved with a group of people who are dedicated to making a difference.”
This article first appeared in the April/May 2017 issue of Acuity Magazine and can be read online in full for free here.