After visiting the Tiwi College Project last year, Head of Macquarie Funds Group, Shemara Wikramanayake recently returned again in July 2016. Shemara also took her 10-year-old daughter and her daughter’s school friends, to show them the Tiwi Islands and introduce them to some of the wonderful local people.
We catch-up with Shemara about her first visit to the Tiwi Islands, visiting The Garden and local community.
When did you first visit the Tiwi College Garden Project? August 2015
What was the purpose of your initial visit? To support the Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College garden project’s annual fundraiser, the Tiwi Ashes. I had been very impressed with the work Guy and the team were doing on the Tiwis, so I also wanted to get a better understanding of the project. My visit, together with Lauren O’Shaughnessy from our Macquarie Group Foundation, helped build our understanding to support a three-year relationship the Macquarie Group Foundation has recently established with Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College project, where we’re donating $100,000 each year for the next three years. This is in addition to the staff matching contributions we provide, which had already resulted in over $1,200,000 contributed by Macquarie staff and the Macquarie Group Foundation to the project by the time we visited.
What did you do while you were in the Tiwis? Lauren and I took part in the standard trip which all Macquarie staff go on when they go to volunteer. We spent time in the garden together with Guy Reynolds, Matthew Hayden and Jason Ryan the COO, time with the students in school – including painting cricket bats with some of the senior female students, and visiting local projects such as art galleries – and also spent time experiencing the incredible environment – like fishing Goose Creek etc. It was clear the Tiwi College and the Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College Garden Project had added great value for the students and the community. There was also a great sense of future potential and opportunity if properly supported.
Do you think the Tiwi College Garden Project is a worthwhile cause? Why? Yes, it is. With every dollar that Macquarie donates, we know it’s going a long way to supporting the garden which does an incredible job of supporting the local Tiwi College students and community. The Garden provides nutritious fresh fruit and vegetables for the students and helps them understand the role nutrition plays in their lives. It also provides extra-curricular work experience opportunities for the students – the COO Jason takes on apprentices in the garden – and it also helps the students learn important self-discipline and project management skills.
Why is it important for Macquarie to support the Tiwi College Garden Project? Macquarie supports a wide variety of projects and they are typically staff led. Macquarie prides itself on encouraging and supporting our staff in achieving what they want to do in driving impact in their communities and this is the case with Guy and his team. We find that the most successful projects are the ones where staff take a personal interest in a particular project and we try and help these projects by not just donating money. We leverage the skills around us and give by donating staff time and expertise. For example, as well as financial support, Macquarie has also donated 150 laptops and provides ongoing pro bono IT support to Tiwi College. In addition, Guy has encouraged many other Macquarie staff to get involved in the Tiwis.
What are your three top tips for anyone going to the Tiwis?
- Be open minded and learn as much as you can about how best to improve prospects for the Tiwi people – whether it’s through the local people like the school children and Tic Tac, Fijian families, School teachers, School Principal Ian and his wife Annie or the COO Jason – there are many people to learn from.
- Try and think about how you can support the Tiwi students and the local community through ‘the compromise’. The compromise is where we identify opportunities to improve outcomes within the framework of the local Tiwi culture and the broader, modern Australian way of life. Going to the Tiwis is a great opportunity to try to understand the challenges for our indigenous communities and how we can sustain, as well as lift them.
- Try to bring something from your skills, expertise and background to the Tiwi people, whether it is a technical skill or mentorship or a different perspective or funding ideas.
Where would you like to see the Tiwi College Garden Project in 5 years time? The college has been running for six years and has done an incredible job in supporting the children to attend school all the way through to high school graduation. The Hayden Reynolds Tiwi College Garden Project now provides full-time employment for a Tiwi staffer who has graduated from Tiwi College and it provides development roles for junior apprentices who are still studying at Tiwi College. It would be great to continue this approach and help students and graduates with apprenticeships and employment, especially in Tiwi based areas like agriculture, tourism, hospitality, Tiwi cultural projects – like art galleries or Tiwi based trades. The Tiwi people are also great athletes, artists, and musicians and it would be great to support them in national roles in sports and the arts. By developing this program, it would go a long way towards building prosperity in the Tiwis themselves. The more students who graduate and then go on to graduate from an apprenticeship and secure a job, the more other Tiwi kids will be inspired about having broader, bigger futures.