The Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) recently celebrated its first graduate class of the inaugural REAL Empowered Program, delivered in partnership with A.G Coombs.

A group of 19 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 11 and 12 committed three weekends over three months at the Swinburne Centre, Punt Road Oval in Melbourne to participate in the program focusing on career and further education pathways.

The students are alumni of the KGI’s REAL Determined program, and gained valuable knowledge from partners and organisations offering education and employment advice during the program.

Cultural strengthening was also at the core of the program, facilitated by KGI partner, Culture is Life, and Yorta Yorta Elder Aunty Pam Pederson.

Young Art delivered a project with Robert and Lyn-Al Young, in partnership with the Yarra City Council and the Community Initiative Fund (DHHS), sharing cultural story telling through designing silks, boomerangs, shields and clap sticks.

The Victorian Electoral Commission delivered sessions to encourage youth voice and community participation and assisted in a campaign development project on the group’s chosen topic -Indigenous Youth Incarceration.

A.G Coombs collaborated with the participants to develop key themes and a name for the launch of their new Indigenous Pathways Program, which provides opportunities for Indigenous employment in the construction industry.

“The KGI has truly inspired me, and given me the confidence and support to speak out, and develop my leadership skills by being involved in programs like REAL Empowered and Youth Parliament,” said REAL Empowered participant, Rebekah Lasky.

Thara Brown, KGI Program Manager said she was impressed by the talent and maturity of the group.

“I’m excited to see where the passion and drive of our participants takes them in making positive and impactful change for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia,” Brown said.

“It’s very rewarding to know that the KGI has had a positive and powerful influence in the participant’s journeys, and it’s the reason we exist – to support the next generation of Indigenous leaders to grow and emerge.”

The participants graduated on Saturday, August 18 in the Maurice Rioli Room of the Richmond Football Club and shared their REAL journey and personal stories, highlighting the impact of KGI’s programs and the vast achievements, challenges and aspirations of our emerging Aboriginal leaders.

The KGI thanks its program partners, A.G Coombs, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Victorian Electoral Commission and Culture is Life, as well as providers Toorong Marnong (Higher Education Accord), the Koorie Heritage Trust, Crown Indigenous Employment Program, Career Tracker (Indigenous Internship Program) and Swinburne’s Moondani Toombadool (Centre Indigenous Studies) for their support to deliver the REAL Programs to emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.