Helping Indigenous Communities Thrive
The Miriam Rose Foundation is actively working in the Nauiyu community to improve the quality of life through education and opportunities for Indigenous children and youth. Whilst the work we undertake is primarily in and around Miriam’s hometown of Nauiyu and downstream at Wooliana, it is our desire to bring our programs to other Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory.
Enriching Lives and Creating Opportunities
The Miriam Rose Foundation is all about enriching lives and creating opportunities for a brighter future for Indigenous children and youth.
Geographic isolation and displacement by white settlement have created a lot of hardship and trauma in the Nauiyu community. Each generation since white settlement has its own story and sadness and this sadness has created a lack of direction and optimism. Like any town where unemployment is high (approx 80%), children can be doing it tough. The Miriam Rose Foundation is determined to interrupt this sadness. We aim to inspire and enable this current generation of children and youth to embrace the good things about their cultural life and work from that strength and sense of belonging and identity to choose the way their life is lived. We aim to ensure that in this generation no child gets missed out and each one has the means and opportunity to build a better life.
Actively Working Inside the Community
We are based in the community and work directly with children and youth through purposeful, structured holiday programs, afterschool activities and employment training within the community. 80% of our board are local elders from Nauiyu to ensure the local voice is heard and represented. MRF promotes education knowing that the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. We actively support Aboriginal children in their education and seek to create opportunities for them to engage in activities, training and employment both on and off the community. The MRF philosophy is to educate, develop and inspire children and youth to create a bright future.
Our work in the community focuses on four pillars:
Miriam Rose Foundation – Educational Programs
As the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory, Miriam Rose is passionate about education. She is convinced that getting a good education is the best way to get a great start in life so we actively support and encourage children’s education through our programs.
Education To Year 9
Education is provided within the community up until year 9 as stipulated by the government. After this, if children want to further their education they need to go to boarding schools outside of the community. There are boarding schools located within Darwin but children can go out of state to other boarding schools if required. We work to help children find a school that is the right fit for them.
It is well known that Indigenous people are falling behind in many educational areas and the Foundation is helping to address this by providing funding, help and support in all areas of education. There are several initiatives that the Miriam Rose Foundation has implemented to help encourage school attendance, support learning and participation in further education.
Leaving the safety and comfort of home to attend boarding school is a daunting task. Add to that the lifestyle and language differences of moving to a big city from a remote town and you’ll see why boarding school can be an overwhelming proposition for many Aboriginal children.
Following a study into why so many Indigenous children end up dropping out of boarding school, homesickness and lack of emotional readiness have been identified as critical issues. In response to this, the Miriam Rose Foundation has commenced initiatives to build skills that will help children stay the course in education.
‘Off Country Tool Kit’
Our ‘Off Country Tool Kit’ program provides training in emotional control and self-regulation to give children the skills and strategies to deal with feelings of homesickness, self-doubt and loneliness. We teach children that they can choose how to respond to their feelings and that no feeling is final. Whilst we currently provide this training to individuals, the Miriam Rose Foundation would like to fund specialist providers in this area and deliver these programs as part of every child’s learning and development. We want every child to be shown tools and techniques to help build emotional resilience. The Foundation would like funding to create a resource manual or App for children to refer to for strategies and help if they are having problems settling in. This resource would cover a broad range of topics including Study Habits, Dealing with Homesickness, Asking for Help, Personal Care and Using Spare Time.
The Foundation would like to gain enough funding to set up a family placement scheme. It has been found that Aboriginal children who have been placed with a host family when schooling ‘off country’ have had better educational outcomes than those in the boarding schools. This is largely down to the emotional support and guidance given in a family environment. The Miriam Rose Foundation is actively raising funds to employ and train an Indigenous educational support worker who can set up and establish this program.
Miriam Rose Foundation – Supporting Regular School Attendance
We seek to identify opportunities for excursions to the major towns as rewards for good behaviour and attendance at school. Such excursions include trips to Darwin to see a major league football game played under lights in a huge stadium with about 13,000 people present. This is a phenonmenal experience for our young people. There is no public transport available on community and not all families have a car or a drivers license so we hire a big bus and take the kids and a responsible adult each into town for the game. This helps as a reward but also helps children realise that they are part of a bigger community that has things in common with them such as a love of football.
Miriam Rose Foundation – Art Programs
As a renowned Aboriginal artist and a former arts consultant for the Northern Territory department of education, Miriam Rose is passionate about art. Aboriginal art is not only a great way to get children to express themselves but is a fantastic way to anchor them to their cultural heritage. When art is taught in our programs it is supported with stories about the land, the rivers, plants and wildlife and their importance in Aboriginal culture.
The Foundation’s logo was painted by Miriam and depicts a hand reaching down to hold, protect and guide the young people in the community which is the sole purpose of the Foundation.
School Holiday Art Programs
Art is the ‘go to’ school holiday activity. The Foundation supplies paints, canvases and lots of art based activities for the children to engage in, both after school and during the school holidays. Art is also used as a healing tool so when children are feeling emotional or frustrated they are encouraged to express themselves in art. We encourage the children to identify art as an economic opportunity as well as a salve for a sore soul. We do this by providing professional quality tools and paints on occasion and facilitating curated display and sale of the art.
Miriam Rose Foundation – Cultural Programs
The Miriam Rose Foundation actively seeks to connect children to their culture, traditional languages and customs as it is a vital part of helping children understand where they fit in. Miriam Rose often speaks of the need to anchor children to their culture, to give them a core sense of identity on which they can draw in times of trouble.
Our cultural programs are based on telling stories of the land, flora and fauna, painting and dancing to connect the children to their cultural customs and traditions. The Foundation creates opportunities and spaces for this to occur and employs local Indigenous Elders to help sure that each child feels surrounded by a strong sense of culture. We would like to fund more camps and storytelling circles to support the Elders in passing on this knowledge.
Miriam has issued an open invitation to all Australians to “come and sit with us on country”. She has set up Dadirri excursions to give tourists the opportunity to come into the Nauiyu community to see, experience and learn about Indigenous life. Tourism provides a great opportunity for children and youth to actively share their culture and language as well as partake in activities that help raise funds for the Foundation.
National Aboriginal And Islanders Day of Celebration (NAIDOC) is an annual day of celebration and recognition for first Australians. MRF in 2020 we coordinated a community celebration that provides an opportunity for the members of the 16 language groups on Nauiyu to come together to dance, sing, eat and be honoured. We applied for a government grant for this activity but it was made even more special by being able to pay local musicians to put on a disco for the young people after the cultural display. This is possible through the kind donations and support of our broader support base.
Miriam Rose Foundation – Opportunity Programs
Ensuring Indigenous children are given a great start in life is central to helping them build a brighter future. The Miriam Rose Foundation seeks to actively create opportunities for Aboriginal children and youth to get a great education, participate in sport and participate in the economy.
Seize Your Day
The Seize Your Day fund has been set up to ensure that every Nauiyu child is supported to pursue an opportunity they have been identified for. Where a young person needs support to maximise an opportunity and there is no other source of funding available they are encouraged to apply to the Miriam Rose Foundation’s “Seize Your Day” program. This fund is administered on a merit and needs base and applications are assessed against a criteria to ensure that our donated funds are distributed equitably and used wisely. We welcome corporate and personal donations and in kind support to ensure this program can succeed.
Supporting The Youth Empowerment Program
The Youth Empowerment Program is currently a Commonwealth funded program that’s designed to help train Indigenous youth and provide valuable work skills by employing them to run activities and services within the community. A large part of the success of this program is giving young people a choice, a voice and key responsibilities in the areas they choose to participate in. Our donations are used to supplement government funds to allow us to employ more young people and provide more positive choices. We would like to reach a point where this program can be sustained independently of government funding.
In 2020 our youth empowerment team ran a highly successful weekly footie event open to boys and girls of all ages. It’s was full community event where the local youth coached and umpired the children’s football along with cooked and prepared a community BBQ. The event not only employed local youth but gave the community something to look forward to every week. It brings the community together.
Special Programs & Workshops
The Miriam Rose Foundation regularly hosts special educational workshops in the community to further enhance children’s learning. For example, a local textile artist was employed to put on a screen printing workshop for the children at Wooliana school. Using the facilities at the local Merrepen Arts Centre the children were able to design and screenprint t-shirts and learn valuable skills that could help them participate in the economy.
Music & IT Hub
The music hub was set up in July 2020 with instruments borrowed from the local authority, along with instruments that were donated by community members. During the school holidays, the MRF ran music workshops where children were given basic music lessons including guitar, drums and keyboard.
There is much talent in the community and one 12-year-old boy had a natural gift. He learnt the chords for the guitar within an hour. Totally inspired and engaged, he also took some old drum skins and made himself a set of drums using sticks and gaffer tape.
The MRF also introduced an IT hub in July 2020. This was set up to provide fun and educational school holiday activities but ended up providing much-needed access to IT facilities. People don’t have home computing and there are no libraries in the community. There is one computer for public access in the council building but no assistance to use it.
The IT hub opened in the school holidays and ran a film making workshop. The fun and excitement of making and editing a film attracted many including many who were not regularly attending school.
These children filmed footage (on phones and a donated Go Pro) and were taught how to edit the footage, isolate sounds and make a short movie.
Both the Music and IT hub projects were such a success that they inspired and ignited a real passion within the children – so much so, that many children who were not regularly attending school have an increased desire to learn and have started attending school every day.