As she sat alongside Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and spoke passionately about her vision and determination to make a difference in her community by initiating an Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students at South Grafton High School (SGHS), Tahlia O’Hara also spoke of her commitment to and her belief in the project, and her eagerness to see it progress.
During their meeting on July 28, Tahlia also spoke to the local member about securing funding for the project which she said is aimed at improving attendance rates, offering additional support services and also helping to close the gender gap between male and female Indigenous students at SGHS through equal educational opportunities.
There is currently an Aboriginal Academy for male Indigenous students at SGHS, known as the Clontarf Foundation, but no similar program for female Indigenous students.
And it’s an issue Tahlia is focused on changing.
After gaining widespread community support and praise for the project through several local petitions, Tahlia said meeting with Mr Gulaptis to share her vision of the academy and its many positive attributes with him was the next step towards securing the funds necessary to bring her vision to life.
It was also revealed during the meeting that the project has gained the interest of the Stars Foundation, an organisation which uses a tailored approach to providing holistic mentoring support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and young women.
Speaking to the Clarence Valley Independent following his meeting with Tahlia, Mr Gulaptis described the project as terrific and one he is happy to support.
Mr Gulaptis also announced while the Stars Foundation and the Federal Government have committed two thirds of the funding, he said it is now up to Tahlia to put forward a case to show the State Government why the project is a priority for the Clarence Valley to successfully secure the additional funding.
“The State will also ask that they provide special needs funding through Gonski funding to SGHS which has the opportunity to use some of that funding for special needs projects, which is what this is,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“I believe they have done that to support the Clontarf Foundation.
“I’m happy to provide whatever support I can because I think these projects are terrific, but I said to Tahlia the school (SGHS) needs to invest in this as well as probably some local philanthropists, and I think the State Government should as well.
“I think it can be achieved.”
Describing herself as very happy with Chris’s response following their meeting, Tahlia said a State Government contribution of $250000 is needed along with the “two thirds chipped in by the Federal Government and philanthropy through the Stars Foundation” towards implementing the Aboriginal Academy for female Indigenous students at SGHS.
“We’ve done the research, we just need funding from the State Government for the 100 girls who will hopefully participate in the academy,” she said.
“There is $7500 invested towards each student per year, so times that by the 100 students we have, the total amount in funding would be an equal three-way split.”
“We already have a lot of support from the community and we’d also like to increase that moving forward.”
Tahlia was joined in her meeting with Mr Gulaptis by her grandfather Bob Carnaby, who has been a strong supporter of his granddaughter’s ambition.
“She is very determined to make this project happen,” he said proudly.
The Clarence Valley Independent will continue to provide further updates regarding the project as Tahlia continues her research on top of her Year 12 studies.