08/12/2015 - 05:19

Funds fillip for education

08/12/2015 - 05:19

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A Western Australian charity focused on improving the lives of Aboriginal children through exercise and nutrition programs has hired staff and increased the amount of work it’s doing in several schools, following a major funding increase.

Funds fillip for education
WORTHWHILE WORK: Nyoongar staff Misty Gray (left) and Sara Riches with some of the young Aboriginal students Nyoongar Wellbeing and Sports works with.

A Western Australian charity focused on improving the lives of Aboriginal children through exercise and nutrition programs has hired staff and increased the amount of work it’s doing in several schools, following a major funding increase.

Nyoongar Wellbeing & Sports, Australia’s only Aboriginal-controlled health promotion charity, recently received a near-100 per cent increase in its grant income from the Commonwealth, which has allowed it to grow its Aboriginal staff members by two, to eight.

Chief executive Karyn Lisignoli told Business News that, as part of requirements involved in accepting the boost in federal funding from $450,000 per year to $855,000, the charity had agreed to focus its activities more intensely on fewer schools.

It now visits six primary schools most days of the week, and Ms Lisignoli said teachers were reporting improved behaviour.

“What we’ve been able to achieve is much better school attendance,” she said.

“We found before, when we were working one day a week in the schools, that the kids all came on the day we visited … so obviously by being here more regularly we encourage the kids to come along.

“The behaviour of the kids has also improved. That’s happening for a number of reasons. By doing physical activity they’re building their mental health and wellbeing; they’re building their competence and their ability to stay seated and learn.

“They’re also learning how to behave every time they’re in our programs because they have to. And certainly the kids from the homework classes, the feedback we’re getting is they’re trying so much harder in classes, and they know what to do in order to learn more effectively.”

Ms Lisignoli said Nyoongar was working closely with the schools to maintain attendance levels by insisting students come every day or miss out on Nyoongar’s breakfast, lunch and after-school activities.

The charity, whose total annual revenue is now about $1.4 million, has continued to deliver its broader-based activities, which includes teaching ancient Aboriginal sporting games to corporate organisations as part of team-building exercises.

It also runs a competitive mini-basketball competition for older children at risk of breaking the law, works with Ruah Community Services women’s shelters, and delivers school holiday programs in 19 regional towns.

“There are a lot of myths out there that the Aboriginal community doesn’t value education and we’ve clearly demonstrated that’s completely not true,” Ms Lisignoli said.

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