• Students from the Kormilda School. (AAP)Source: AAP
The federal government has bailed out Australia's largest Aboriginal boarding school and saved it from closure.
By
Laura Morelli

Source:
AAP
20 Oct 2016 - 7:07 PM  UPDATED 20 Oct 2016 - 7:08 PM

Darwin's Kormilda College was facing a funding crisis amid fiscal mismanagement by the school's board.

Now the federal government has stepped in with financial support for 2017, contingent on an audit into its financial position and the development of a plan to keep it going.

Kormilda College principal, Helen Spiers says the outcome was brilliant, but notes although the educational model is great, the financial model needs to be closely examined and reformulated with expert advice.

“It gave confidence to our students, families and staff that the college will continue into the future. This means their jobs are secure and the programs across the school will continue to get the excellent results for the future.”

“This means our all of our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children will be able to graduate from year 12.”

“The Kormilda students don’t end up in jail, they end up in employment and further study.”

Ms Spiers has been an educator in the NT for more than 30 years and says losing this school was something she didn’t want to comprehend.

“I knew our product and purpose would prevail. If our school closed at the end of the year it would mean more than 200 students form remote communities would have to find somewhere else to board because they come from places with no secondary education.”

“If the school closed a good percentage of those students would never have gained a secondary education,” she said.

Spiers completed her PHD on the retention of Indigenous students at Charles Darwin University. Her passion for Indigenous education is because she believes education is the answer.

“The Kormilda students don’t end up in jail, they end up in employment and further study.”

The students at Kormilda come from 35 different communities most have different languages.

“We support sharing their cultural activities and celebrations, we also encourage family members to come and stay so they can help us in the classroom so they can ensure that our class room activities are culturally appropriate.”

The Northern Territory government pledged $5.1 million in September to keep the private school afloat until the end of the 2016 school year, but its future beyond had been in doubt.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said on Thursday Operating for nearly 50 years, the college caters for indigenous boarders from 35 communities across the NT and Western Australia that have high levels of poverty and low school attendance rates.

"It is absolutely essential the Komilda College board is able to work through its current difficulties and transition to a business model that puts the college on a sustainable footing." 

The college has 660 students and can accommodate 230 indigenous boarders. At an emergency meeting this week, the school's board stepped aside and handed responsibly to an interim steering committee.

It costs $40,000 for one remote Aboriginal student to attend the college per year. The amount of federal funding was not immediately clear.

But in the past the school has received 75 per cent of its funding from the federal government and the rest from the NT government.

“Both the NT government and the Commonwealth government have listened to us and value Kormilda, just like we do and also like our parents before us did,” Principal Spiers said.

At a recent parent teacher meeting, Year-12 graduate, Susan Munkara, from the Tiwi islands had a very important message for her Indigenous brothers and sisters, aunties, uncles and elders.

“Education is the key to the advancement of their people.”

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