First Nations excellence is everywhere! There are so many great Indigenous-led projects around the country nurturing and supporting Indigenous kids to shine brightly. This week on School Stream, we look at three education-adjacent projects with First Nations excellence at heart. From connecting kids with the ocean and community, to providing dance scholarships and a very cool fashion label supporting health promotion projects, you’re sure to find something here to inspire. 

A big thank you to all the organisations and projects involved for sharing their experience.

Learn how School Stream can support your school to deliver timely communication to your parent community, or keep reading to learn about three great projects supporting First Nations Excellence.

The Ella Foundation

All-round dynamo Ella Havleka is the Founder and Director of The Ella Foundation. The Foundation aims to inspire and provide opportunities for First Australians youth to experience the joy of dance in all its many forms, and at the core of this goal is awarding scholarships to First Nations’ youth to attend regular dance lessons in dance schools across Australia. 

“For an industry that is so cut-throat, having support like this makes the girls feel accomplished and accepted as Aboriginal dancers who can be proud of where they come from and who they are.” (Scholarship recipient’s mother)

You have no doubt come across Ella Havleka before. Not only was she the first Aboriginal dancer to be selected by the Australian Ballet, but she has toured with Bangarra Dance Theatre, choreographed Wilaygu Ngainybula (which was seen by hundreds of school kids as part of the Australian Ballet’s Outreach and Education Program) and is the Creative Director at Eco Dancers. In 2021, Ella is an Atlantic Fellow of Social Equity and is currently completing a Masters in Social Change Leadership at Melbourne University.

The work of The Ella Foundation is firmly grounded in elevating the importance of dance for Australia’s First Peoples, linking communities together, leading new pathways for reconciliation and aspiring to a more equitable future. 

For Schools:

If you have an aspiring First Nations dancer at your school, head to The Ella Foundation to learn more about scholarships and see more on Instagram.

The Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program

The Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program has been getting Indigenous Victorians in the ocean to learn new skills, water safety knowledge and healthy habits for the past 23 years. The program is led by Surfing Victoria’s Indigenous Aquatic Manager and 11 x Victorian Indigenous Surfing Champion, Jordie Campbell, and utilises an extensive group of mentors across the state. 

“It’s amazing to see everyone doing the programs together, elders getting to come down and see their kids, grandchildren, and all doing it together as one big community”. 

Strong Aboriginal community leadership and engagement in culturally safe and engaging environments that are inclusive, respectful and flexible are the core values of the program and ensure its success. The past few years have seen the program expand inland with the inclusion of a Stand-Up Paddleboard program which has been able to reach new communities in regional inland locations.

Programs are run across the state between October to May with locations covering the Surf Coast, Western Victoria, Ballarat, Bendigo, Metro Melbourne, Bass Coast, Lakes Entrance and Mallacoota. 

For Schools:

Whether you are interested in connecting Indigenous kids at your school with the ocean or you have the next Soli Bailey on your hands, get in touch with Jordie Campbell via email (jordie@surfingvic.com) or head to the website to learn more. You can also follow all the latest news on their Instagram and Facebook pages. 

Clothing the Gaps

Clothing The Gaps is a fresh and dynamic fashion label managed by health professionals that celebrates Aboriginal people and culture and unites people through fashion and cause The clothes do more than look good though, they fund the impactful work of The Clothing the Gaps Foundation, which present a range of programs designed to get Aboriginal people active. The values of elevating, educating, advocating and motivating people for positive social change are at the heart of Clothing the Gaps.

Clothing the Gaps was co-founded by Laura Thompson (Gunditjmara) and Sarah Sheridan (non-Indigenous) and is an Aboriginal social enterprise that uses business as a vehicle to support and fund the impactful work of the Clothing the Gaps Foundation and to support Aboriginal employment.

For schools:

If you’re looking for activities for students at your school, you will find a range of activities including online engagement sessions, Traditional Aboriginal Games, school-based fun runs and more. Follow their work on social media or head to their website to learn more and snag yourself a t-shirt at the same time!

Thanks to everyone involved for their time, expertise and commitment to mentoring First Nations kids to be their best. 

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