Entrepreneurial spirit driving lasting change in remote communities

13th September 2017

By Jeff Schrale – Regional Executive, ANZ Regional Business Banking in Far North Queensland

Corine Matasia has just finished a night-shift and, following only an hour’s sleep, has made time to speak to me about her life’s passion –the early childhood education program she and her team have been running in Napranum, near Weipa.

As an entrepreneur and leader in the remote community, Corine wears many hats. She’s weary, but that does little to dampen her enthusiasm for creating opportunities for local residents. For Corine, it’s about building a community that offers the next generation the chance to stay and to prosper.

Corine is leading the charge for change in Napranum – tackling one of the biggest issues in remote communities. How do we engage and empower young people?

Not surprisingly, it starts with education – particularly on the home front. And through a community-led initiative, Corine and her team are putting kids on the right path, giving them a head-start in their education.

Through the Parents and Learning program, the focus is providing children and their parents the resources and support needed to ensure that kids are at a school-ready level when it comes time to start prep. It’s more than pens and paper though. Importantly, the program educates parents on how to engage and teach their kids.

For the last 15 years, the PaL program has been run by a group of parents and community leaders and is a shining example of what’s achievable with committed local leaders at the helm. It’s a reminder too that these initiatives can only succeed with strong local leadership.

Visiting Napranum recently to present an ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant afforded me the privilege of seeing first-hand the amazing work of Corine and the team. The grant, which will go towards supporting the purchase of more learning resources as well as resources for training, is one of 25 provided to regional communities across Australia in 2017. the aim of Seeds of Renewal program is to support initiatives that build local capacity, increase access to employment and develop greater participation at a local level.

On our visit, we heard from Relena who runs the day-to-day operations of the program and ensures the materials go home with children once a week. She speaks knowingly of the power of getting books and learning materials into homes and involving parents in the process of educating their kids.

Relena also shared her own experiences and how, since starting work with PaL program, her world has opened up. It wasn’t long ago that Relena was shy, she didn’t have a drivers’ licence and was reluctant to speak with those outside of her family. Today, through her work, Relena’s confidence has grown and she is an independent woman, empowered to speak at conferences and manage the program. Relena’s growth as an individual and community leader is remarkable and a demonstration of what’s possible when we invest in people.

We also visited the local Early Childhood Centre, where we met Trish – another inspiring indigenous woman committed to the power of education and its role in transforming her community. Since becoming Director, Trish has introduced before and after school care and is the driving force around using the centre for more education programs that include parents as well.

Alongside Trish is Christine Hanrahan who, together with other community leaders and early childhood professionals, has been the catalyst for turning ideas into reality when it comes to education programs that are making a difference.

In Corine and the team, Napranum has a band of women who operate with a true entrepreneurial and community-minded spirit. It is a spirit and philosophy that is enabling the next generation a chance to embrace the life-changing opportunities that only the gift of education can deliver.

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