Education key to empowering young Indigenous girls
In Australia, there is still a sizable gap in the educational achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women compared with their non-Indigenous peers. By 2019, 66.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 20-24 years had completed Year 12 or its equivalent, compared with 93% of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the same age-group. 
Since 2005 Queensland-based Indigenous education organisation Yalari has been working hard to change the course of history when it comes to educating the next generation of young women and men.
The not-for-profit group provides Indigenous children from regional, rural and remote communities across Australia the opportunity to receive a full boarding school scholarship for their entire secondary education.
The organisation currently has over 200 students studying on Yalari scholarships nationally. A further 380 Yalari members who are part of the organisation’s alumni group are studying at universities, working or undertaking further training.
But according to Llew Mullins, Managing Director of Yalari, much more needs to be done when it comes to educating the next generation of young indigenous children.
Yalari is one of two key organisations that have partnered with FCM Meetings & Events for this year’s International Day of the Girl. Yalari, together with Australian charity dedicated to eradicating energy poverty – SolarBuddy, will be front and centre at this year’s It’s Now Girl – Tomorrow’s Generation Today virtual event, 11 October 2021.
Yalari firmly believes education is the key to harnessing generational change and creating brighter futures for young women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island backgrounds. The group is deeply committed to the ongoing success of its national program of scholarships, student support and post-school opportunities.
The NFP is keen to utilise this year’s It’s Now Girl event to raise awareness about the educational outcomes of young Indigenous women, discuss gender equality and ensure there are ongoing opportunities for learning that are sustainable for regional and remote First Nations’ communities.
“Two Yalari alumni will be attending the event to talk about their individual educational journeys and how Yalari has provided positive opportunities to help them build successful careers and futures,” Ms Mullins said.
“We want to inspire conversation not only about the success stories but also to draw attention to how much work still needs to be done in Australia to ensure all young girls have access to education and visible role models to encourage secondary and tertiary education and training.”
Yalari members will also be on hand for a post-event Q and A session at this year’s It's Now Girl virtual event.
The organisation said there were numerous factors that contributed to the broad gap in educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. These included -:
- Geography - many Indigenous girls don’t have access to education due to the remoteness of their homes
- Culture - a lack of understanding about the educational opportunities that are available to Indigenous children
- Community - the absence of role models to encourage education and future aspirations
- Low socio-economic factors
- Lack of professional development opportunities due to remote locations.
Ms Mullins said organisations like Yalari were intent on challenging and changing the status quo on these factors with long-term and sustainable solutions.
The organisation believed events such as International Day of the Girl were important vehicles not only for driving awareness of the inequality that exists for Indigenous education in Australia but also for helping to raise critical funds for organisations like Yalari that are working to make a difference to people’s futures.
But while conversation is one thing. Action is another.
“We’d love to see increased interest and partnerships from like-minded corporations who want to make a real difference to the lives of young children. By providing opportunities and pathways for a quality education, we will reduce the disparity, which is a vital part of closing the gap these statistics talk to,” Ms Mullins said.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Gender Indicators, Australia, 2020