NSW Aboriginal Affairs is entering the establishment phase of the Aboriginal Centre for Excellence (ACE), following an extensive period spent developing the concept for this unique project with Aboriginal people in Western Sydney.
Scheduled to open in late 2018, the ACE is underpinned by the OCHRE strategy, which commits to doing things with Aboriginal communities – not ‘for’ or ‘to’ Aboriginal communities. A $20 million commitment to establish the ACE was unveiled by the then NSW Premier in March 2015.
At its heart, ACE will support young Aboriginal people from Western Sydney to achieve their aspirations and goals as they transition from the school environment to education and training, and on to sustainable employment and successful careers.
A key aspect of the ACE is connecting Aboriginal young people and their families directly to the benefits from the unprecedented levels of economic activity and investment in Western Sydney over the next 20 to 50 years.
Following initial community consultations during 2015 and 2016, Aboriginal Affairs has completed a comprehensive, two-stage procurement process, investigating different options for the establishment phase of ACE by an external organisation or consortium. The lengthy process was commercial-in-confidence and curbed Aboriginal Affairs’ ability to update the community on its progress.
The first stage canvassed the market for innovative solutions to develop and deliver the Centre. Aboriginal Affairs then called for a Request for Proposals as it sought an organisation to project manage the establishment phase of the ACE’s many components prior to its opening in November 2018.
Unable to identify any one organisation we felt confident could demonstrate all of the capabilities and expertise required for this unique and multifaceted project, Aboriginal Affairs will now coordinate the establishment phase of the ACE internally, directly commissioning specific tasks and blocks of work from Aboriginal owned and run businesses as needed. We will be guided by advice from a youth-led Project Advisory Committee.
We also propose to engage the services of an Aboriginal person who has a deep understanding of the vision for the ACE, to come on board as the Strategic Director of the project.
The Strategic Director will also be guided by the PAC and supported by Aboriginal Affairs.
The ACE will be based at the decommissioned Whalan high school, which will be refurbished over the next 18 months.
The community remains at the cornerstone of the ACE journey. Western Sydney communities were crucial to the development phase of the ACE. Elders, community members, relevant stakeholders and, of course, young people themselves helped shaped the concept of a ‘centre for excellence’.
Community engagement will resume and in fact expand as the establishment phase progresses. Our first priority is to convene the Project Advisory Committee to guide this phase and drive the ACE’s transition to a community-owned legal entity.
Developing the ACE’s governance model is critical, as the ACE will be Aboriginal owned and operated and representative of the diverse communities in Western Sydney.
If you would like to know more about the ACE or be involved in the consultation process, contact the Aboriginal Affairs team via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org