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  What Works - The Work Program

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The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation’s role

Neil Jarvis is General Manager Projects with the Foundation. Here he discusses its work, and how it attracts private enterprise:


The Foundation began with just the Gumala Mirnuwarni Education Project site at Karratha but these days there are nine or ten sites in Western Australia and we’ve also begun working at three sites in other states. Our whole concept is built on the concept of partnership between not-for-profit organisations, government and private enterprise, and we only go where you can actually establish that partnership. If we can establish that partnership we will.

There are now four sites that started purely as part of the Education Department strategy, but then became Polly Farmer programs in partnership with the Department, when private enterprise joined the partnership. That would include places like Kalgoorlie and Carnarvon. We always work in partnership with the Department, but where private enterprise partners join in the costs to the Department are reduced by 50%. And of course DEST has always been one of the partners as well, because they provide the ITAS tutors.

We haven’t been able to put partnerships together for metropolitan sites because we just can’t get private enterprise to invest in programs in those areas. We have tried and in one case we came very close, but in the end it fell through.

Our Steering Committees are rather different from the ones at purely DET sites. Because of the nature of our partnerships, all the money that relates to our programs is controlled by the Steering Committee and is not the responsibility of the school principal or the school accountant. Balance sheets are presented to every meeting and we discuss the budget and its allocation. It’s a large budget and sponsors will often pay for extra activities (like camps) as well.

At our Steering Committee meetings there will be people like the Human Resources manager of a big private enterprise partner, as well as Elders from the Aboriginal community, DEST officers and the DET District Director. At a lot of our sites, the Steering Committee has become a key strategic group dealing with a range of educational issues in the town.

Operations Groups will still make decisions about educational matters, but when an Operations Group has an idea about a strategic issue, they put a paper together and present it to the Steering Committee. At a lot of our sites, the Steering Group has become an important strategic body, dealing with a range of educational issues in the town.

The whole purpose of the Foundation is to support programs that can not be cut off by political change. Our partnerships and funding sources mean that the program can’t get dissipated in that way. We were invited to [another state] to talk about setting up a program and that was the first concern of the Land Council.

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