Short film celebrates 20 years of Opening The Doors Foundation

OpeningTheDoors 350A foundation established by a determined group of community leaders will next month celebrate two decades of working towards changing the lives of Aboriginal students.

The Opening the Doors Foundation (OTDF) has provided education resources and support each year to Aboriginal children and young people, now exceeding 800 per annum, by doing, as the name suggests, ensuring the doors to non-Government schools are open to all Aboriginal families in Victoria.

What started as a "dream foundation with no money" in 2000, has today grown to become the only Aboriginal foundation in the State dedicated to supporting education for students from foundation year to year 12. Over its twenty years, it has provided guidance and support to more than 3,000 students and their families in their education journey, with over 10,000 grants totaling more than $6 million.

Since the establishment of OTDF, enrolments of Aboriginal students in non-Government schools across Victoria have jumped to more than 1900 this year.
Founders Vicki Clark, Melissa Brickell, Carol Messer and John Arthur attribute that major growth to one simple thing - Aboriginal families having options and choices available to them when making decisions about their children's education.

"Historically, I know from personal experience, that non-Government schools haven't been the most tangible option for Aboriginal families to send their kids to," Ms Clark said.

"OTDF has made a difference to that by upskilling teachers to be culturally aware of Aboriginal issues, and thereby equipping them to meet the cultural needs of these kids,” she said.

"In turn, this has built the trust of Aboriginal families that their children are safe in non-Government schools and has seen many more families make that choice."

Ms Messer said feedback from families with children supported by OTDF has been "overwhelmingly positive”.

"When you get an email from a parent saying, ‘my child opened assembly this morning in their native language’, or ‘my child helped to raise the Aboriginal flag at school today’, that's the best feeling," she said."You can see as the children begin to grow in number, that they are changing the culture of their schools, growing in confidence and becoming emerging community leaders."

John Arthur said the OTDF philosophy reflected the fundamental belief in education as a key foundation for the future of reconciliation, and equality in life for all First Nations People.

"Receiving an education in an environment that supports and understands the cultural background of our First Nations People is critical," he said.
"OTDF numbers have grown from 32 students to over 800, and we will continue to work together to ensure we reach more and more Aboriginal families."


OTDF 20th Anniversary Online Celebration will be livestreamed on on 4 August at 9:30 a.m.