There’s a bunch of indigenous kids in that town of 30,000 souls bucking the national averages for dropping out of school and missing out on jobs. Instead of ending up unemployed, they are completing high school, gaining entry to university, winning internship opportunities, and travelling nationally and internationally to meet other inspiring Indigenous leaders.
" It is the most important thing for our community. From education, we can solve the other issues."
Carly Mohamed, law student
The secret weapon these kids have on their side is an independent school-to-work training program called Ganbina. Started by a bunch of local businessmen in 1997, and lead today by Taungurung man, Anthony Cavanagh, Ganbina is setting some astonishing records for success.
For example, in 2014, Ganbina achieved a 100 per cent completion rate for its Year 12 students, according to a recent evaluation of its programs by the Indigenous consulting unit within global accounting firm PwC.
A PIPELINE OF TALENT
It’s good news for corporate Australia. Many of the 600 companies that have created Reconciliation Action Plans struggle to fill the positions they have promised to Indigenous Australians.
It’s true they have employed almost 30,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, according to Reconciliation Australia. But even with the best will in the world, many companies cannot find enough suitable applicants to achieve their RAP goals. Why?
Ganbina’s chief executive, Anthony Cavanagh, believes there are just not enough Aboriginal kids completing school, getting training and going to university. When they drop out of mainstream education, they can’t get jobs. The statistics speak for themselves, he says.
• Around 46 per cent of Indigenous students do not attain Year 12 or equivalent, compared to 14 per cent of non-Indigenous students.
• Just 39.4 per cent of young Indigenous Australians take part in post-school employment, education or training, compared to 74 per cent of non-Indigenous young people of the same age.
• The number of young Indigenous Australians who are unemployed is nearly double non-Indigenous youth of the same age (31 per cent compared to 16 per cent).
Finding people who agree on the problem is easy. What’s hard is to find the people who agree about the solutions. This makes Ganbina particularly interesting.
Ganbina began delivering its programs 13 years ago. Since then, it has helped nearly 1,000 young Indigenous Australians finish school, undertake further education or training and secure jobs – real ones that they can keep.
It’s cheap and effective, the report finds, delivering its services for about half the average spend of similar organisations.
“Its program retention rate are the highest by comparison, it achieves gender balance to a greater extent than other considered organisations (42 per cent male participants and 58 per cent female participants) and it reaches the broadest age range of participants (primary school through to 25 years),” the report’s authors write.
Ganbina’s funding model is at the heart of its success, Cavanagh says, as it is solely dependent on and supported by philanthropic and corporate investors, and without any government funding.
“That allows us to be flexible and innovative. Someone can walk in the door and say, ‘Anthony, I want to start my own business.’ This is an actual case. We didn’t have programs that support that kind of initiative, so we are developing one.”
Instead of having to return to government funders to ask for a new contract, Cavanagh can call up any of his investors and “have lunch with them tomorrow.” The Ganbina team decides how the money is spent based on their decades of experience and the needs of participants.
The downside of Ganbina’s financial model is the hard work required to attract ongoing “investment” – a term intended to remind supporters their dollars deliver a real return. The 69 investors listed on the website include everyone who ever donated money or time, no matter how little.
Despite this challenge, the program is gaining momentum. In the past five years, 300 participants have joined. It’s a voluntary program. Without the endorsement of the community and the support of parents, kids wouldn’t take up the opportunity.
The program achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 73.6 per cent from participants, their families, local businesses and both the Indigenous and wider community in Shepparton, the PIC evaluation found.