The NSW Government has made a commitment of $20 million to the establishment of an Aboriginal Centre for Excellence (ACE) in Western Sydney. At its heart, the ACE will support young Aboriginal people from Western Sydney as they transition from the school environment to education and training, and on to sustainable employment and successful careers. Connecting the ACE to employment, career and business opportunities arising from major investments in Western Sydney over the next 20 – 50 years is crucial.
Community consultations were held in the development stage, the ACE team has been involved in a comprehensive, two-stage competitive procurement process which investigated several different options for the establishment phase without identifying a suitable external provider to manage this process. The processes was commercial-in-confidence and it curbed Aboriginal Affair’s ability to speak publicly about the project.
Aboriginal Affairs NSW continues to have carriage of this work and has appointed Dr Aden Ridgeway as the Strategic Director to work with them on the establishment phase of ACE, building on his previous work during the development phase.
An architect has been sourced to manage the refurbishment of the former Whalan High School for the ACE facility. Kevin O’Brien is a highly qualified and award-winning architect with over 20 years’ experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory to successfully complete capital works projects.
The establishment phase will be driven by local young people, deciding what local solutions are needed to harness local talent, encourage aspirations and enrich lives.
In December 2017, a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) comprising of 10 young Aboriginal people from Western Sydney was formed to guide the establishment phase making sure it is attuned to their needs and those of the diverse Aboriginal communities in Western Sydney.
In March 2018, a Community Open Day was held to share information with Aboriginal community members, local organisations and interested stakeholders on the ACE developments to date.
The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) will be holding focus testing sessions to focus the vision for the ACE and to inform the strategic offerings. Dates for these focus testing sessions are to be advised.
How can I get involved?
Community is the cornerstone of the ACE and working with the community requires time, deep listening and meaningful engagement. From the outset, the NSW Government has intended that the community owns and operates ACE, which must reflect the lived experience of Aboriginal communities.
Participation by community members is paramount and will be continually sought through the establishment phase. Large and small Indigenous organisations serving Western Sydney will also be invited to take an active role in ongoing consultations.