21 March 2017

Whitehaven-supported Girls Academy opens in Gunnedah

A new initiative to support and empower Indigenous girls has been launched in Gunnedah, supported by Whitehaven Coal.

The Gunnedah Girls Academy has been officially opened at Gunnedah High School by NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, The Hon. Sarah Mitchell MP.

The Girls Academy works within local school systems to provide support for Indigenous high school age girls to engage in school and pursue their goals. The Girls Academy is the flagship program for Role Models and Leaders Australia, a not for profit organisation founded to invest in educational support programs for Indigenous girls.

“Simply put, our mission is ‘Develop a Girl – Change a Community’. By opening the Gunnedah Girls Academy we bring a community driven program to support Aboriginal girls at Gunnedah High School. As the future leaders and mothers of the Indigenous community, strong and educated young women are critical to closing the unacceptable gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians” said Ricky Grace, CEO and Founder of the Girls Academy.

With support from the Federal and NSW Governments, the Girls Academy Program is undertaking a significant expansion, which aims to more than double the number of Indigenous Girls who benefit from the program to 2,500 girls enrolled nationwide by the end of 2017. NSW is a major focus for expansion with 800 girls enrolled in NSW Girls Academies.

The expansion of the Girls Academy is starting in Gunnedah with the support of two new partners, Whitehaven Coal and fellow sponsor Idemitsu Australia Resources.

“Our program has support from government but relies on corporate and philanthropic funds to make it a reality. Gunnedah is one of the first Girls Academy to open as part of the new expansion, due to support from Whitehaven Coal and Idemitsu. These local two local operators demonstrate their strong commitment to the local Aboriginal community and high value on the importance of attaining educational outcomes for Indigenous girls. We look forward to working together to achieve real and lasting results within the Gunnedah community” said Mr Grace.

Regarding Whitehaven’s support for the project, Paul Flynn, Whitehaven Coal CEO and Managing Director, said: “Whitehaven Coal is proud of its community support initiatives and the work we do to create economic opportunities for Aboriginal people through training, employment and business development.

“Whitehaven’s support of The Girls Academy will help them achieve important educational outcomes including increasing school attendance, advancing academic and personal achievement, improving grade 12 completion rates and facilitating post-school transition planning.

“11 per cent of our workforce identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and approximately $10 million in wages and benefits flow through indigenous families back into the local community annually.

Attending the launch (pictured) were members of the Whitehaven Coal team.

More information on the Girls Academy can be found at

About the Girls Academy

The Girls Academy program is the leading provider of school based programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls in Australia. The program works within the local school system to support high school girls to engage in education and pursue their goals though mentoring, sport, cultural and empowerment programs. The program is centred around an Academy room in each school where a minimum of two mentors deliver a program to achieve the ‘Big 4’ objectives – increase school attendance; advance academic and personal achievement; improve year 12 graduation rates and facilitate post school transition planning. The program is community driven and tailored to the needs of each community.

The Girls Academy Program is the flagship program of Role Models and Leaders Australia Ltd, a charitable organisation founded in 2004 by Olympian and champion basketballer Ricky Grace (MEdL, BPolSc) to addresses the inequity in investment in educational support programs for Indigenous girls. Further information at

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