With a strong belief in Aboriginal advancement and education, leading mining company IGO has joined forces with educational scholarship provider MADALAH to become the platinum sponsor for this year’s MADALAH Ball.

A miner of metals vital to clean energy such as nickel, copper and cobalt, IGO’s mission centres on the notion of making a difference. MADALAH functions on a similar trajectory, with the organisation’s name itself standing for “making a difference and looking ahead”. They provide Indigenous students from across Western Australia with secondary and tertiary scholarships to attend the best schools in the State.

While IGO has been involved with MADALAH since 2016, the mining company has invested a record $50,000 into the annual MADALAH fundraising ball. With MADALAH unable to host the event last year because of COVID-19, IGO head of corporate affairs Joanne McDonald said IGO saw an opportunity to really kick-start the fundraising with a huge investment.

“We’ve supported their ball every year that they’ve had it and it’s an amazing event. It’s incredible,” Ms McDonald told the National Indigenous Times.

“Not only does it give (MADALAH) a huge opportunity to raise a lot of money for extra scholarships, you’ve also got 800 people in the room who are learning more about the program.

“I think balls are very worthwhile for spreading the word … When we heard they were having the ball again this year we obviously wanted to be involved. It didn’t take much of a decision. This year (our support) is substantially more.”

IGO head of corporate affairs Joanne McDonald says education is important for regional and remote communities. Photo by Hannah Cross.

Ms McDonald says part of IGO’s corporate giving strategy involves speaking to communities closest to their operations and finding out where they need the most support.

“In most of these communities what we find is the biggest issue is employment,” she said.

“People in those communities may not have the right skills or the right education for the employment that you’re looking for, so we decided we really need to look at this through a long-term lens rather than a short-term fix.

“Our strategy for corporate giving is to really go back to the beginning. We’re talking kindergarten, primary schools, secondary schools, and really start that journey as soon as you can.”

Ms McDonald says MADALAH and IGO’s shared values make the perfect partnership for increasing Indigenous education across regional and remote communities.

“It is important for any organisation when they’re supporting not-for-profits … to support a program that you know works,” she said.

“And we know this program works. Their retention for students completing school is just incredible … the figures speak for themselves.”

MADALAH’s retention rate has been above 90 per cent since 2014. Last year, it had 38 Year 12 graduates. Eighteen of these graduates went on to university, 14 went into TAFE and six went straight into employment.

“We’re supporting a program that really works and really makes a difference,” Ms McDonald said.

MADALAH chief executive Laura Taylor says investments such as IGO’s are the type of investments that lead to lasting generational change for remote and regional Aboriginal communities.

“With the support of corporate partnerships such as IGO we are slowly but surely closing the gap in ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have equal opportunity to a high-quality education,” Ms Taylor said.

“Without doubt we are making a difference in the lives of our participants, their families and their communities.”

The MADALAH Ball is being held at Crown Perth on August 7.

By Hannah Cross