After sixteen years of operation, The Girls Academy program will not continue in 2021.

The program will cease to operate due to the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) not funding it beyond the current contract, which terminates on December 31.

In a statement published on The Girls Academy website, Role Models and Leaders Australia Ltd (RMLA) outlined the circumstances.

“On Tuesday 22 December, Role Models and Leaders Australia (RMLA) were advised by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) that its Girls Academy program would not be funded beyond the expiry of the current contract. As a result, after 16 years of service, the Girls Academy program will cease to operate as of 31 December 2020,” they wrote.

“The NIAA has advised that other providers will be engaged to provide educational support to the 43 schools currently supported by RMLA.

“All parties will work together to ensure the best employment outcome for our frontline staff from 2021 onwards and also facilitate the transition of any equipment to the new providers.”

NIT contacted NIAA for comment. They outlined that the program has not been de-funded nor had their funding cut. Rather, new providers have been selected to deliver services in the new year.

This is a result of a recent expanded grant round.

“The Australian Government is increasing funding for these services and is expanding the number of sites and available places to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls across the country,” they wrote.

“The National Indigenous Australians Agency is working closely with outgoing and incoming providers to ensure a smooth transition of services, including to ensure that existing staff are offered employment opportunities with the new girls academy providers.”

NIT questioned the NIAA regarding the decision not to continue funding.

“There are a variety of reasons why any particular provider may not be funded, but to protect private, confidential or commercial information, the reasons for funding decisions are not provided to third parties,” they responded.

Questions have been raised if the decision was related to the investigation of RMLA Director and CEO Ricky Grace.

Grace was investigated in 2019 by the Australian charities watchdog after concerns he was using funding for private expenses. Claims were found to be false and Grace was cleared.

Concerns remain regarding the employment status of front-line workers, the providers which will replace the Girls Academy program and the young Indigenous women within the program and what remains for them.

These concerns are heightened in the wake of the Federal Government dedicating 2020 Budget dedicated $39.8 million to the Clontarf Foundation, a non-Indigenous sports development program for Indigenous boys.

“It seems the Morrison Government hasn’t learned its lesson after leaving out First Nations girls and women in its budget,” said Chris Bowen Acting Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians.

“This is despite the report of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani that found Aboriginal women’s voices continue to be marginalised and undermined.

“The Government remains eerily silent on its plans for funding for First Nations women’s education moving forward, and needs to come clean with the public on its cuts.”

By Rachael Knowles