• Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation luncheon in Sydney (AAP)Source: AAP
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Indigenous children who go to boarding school face the best prospects in life.
Andrea Booth

20 May 2015 - 6:22 PM  UPDATED 25 Jun 2015 - 3:13 PM

At the launch of the blueprint of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) in Sydney on Wednesday, the Prime Minister outlined his vision for Indigenous children to receive quality educations.

"I look forward to the day when we have our first Indigenous army chief, our first Indigenous High Court judge, our first Indigenous [Man] Booker Prize winner, our first Indigenous billionaire," said Mr Abbott.

"We must yearn for the day when success for Indigenous people is so normal it's no longer remarkable."

The AIEF funds nearly 500 scholarships to elite boarding schools from 230 communities around Australia.

A former recipient of the scholarship, Latiesha Dunbar, 20, is a proud Tiwi and Thursday Islands woman who studies Media and Communications at the Queensland University of Technology. She says that her family has seen the positive effects of going to boarding school.

"My family started to see the benefits of going to a boarding school full-time so they got my brother onto the AIEF scholarship and he went to St Joseph's College and graduated last year, and he also is now going to university," Ms Dunbar said.

At the age of 15, Ms Dunbar moved from her Darwin home to St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane after she was awarded a scholarship.

The founder of AIEF, Andrew Penfold, said that the program offered non-Indigenous students the opportunity to learn more about knowledge and culture of the First Peoples of Australia.

"One of the great benefits of these programs as well is you are having the Indigenous culture warmly embraced and shared within these schools which are largely non-Indigenous students," said Mr Penfold.

"So you have non-Indigenous kids going to school with Indigenous children, playing sports together, studying together, spending time with each other on weekends."

The Prime Minister's top advisor on Indigenous Affairs, Warren Mundine, says the scholarship program is having a snowball-effect.

"We're not here to provide opportunities, we're here to change the nation."

"Other kids are coming up to us and saying hey, 'We know John, we know Mary, we'd like to be like them too'," said Mr Mundine. "We're not here to provide opportunities, we're here to change the nation."

When asked if the AIEF boarding school program may separate students from their communities and culture, Mr Mundine said the foundation was working to ensure students maintained their connection.

“That was a thing we were worried about in the beginning.

"You've got to bring the community with you, they've got to feel part of that, their parents have got to have ownership of that program as well and that community have got to have ownership of that program, otherwise that doesn't work.

"Otherwise when kids go home, they feel isolated, they feel cut off from their community and we're making sure they bring their community with them."