Tjindu Foundation launch reveals exciting 2021 programs

Co-founders Paul Vandenbergh, April Lawrie and two Aboriginal students at the the Tjindu Foundation launch

The Tjindu Foundation launched today as South Australia’s leading, purpose-developed not-for-profit delivering education, and cultural engagement programs for Aboriginal children and young people.

Co-founded and developed by SA’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie, and newly-appointed AFL Diversity Talent Manager and former NBL Basketballer Paul Vandenbergh, the Tjindu Foundation will drive positive change for Aboriginal youth and their communities through cultural education and supporting success in schooling.

“The Tjindu Foundation is the culmination of several years’ preparation and will serve a critical role in supporting Aboriginal students and families living in South Australia by engaging them during their education journey,” said Tjindu Foundation co-founder and chair April Lawrie, who is a proud Mirning and Kokatha woman from SA’s far west coast.

“We have been fortunate to have support from the federal government and Minister Ken Wyatt to establish the Tjindu Foundation as South Australia’s first Aboriginal-led not-for-profit in this space, and look forward to engaging and working alongside government, private sector and community groups to achieve our objectives.”

“We also welcome the corporate support towards our establishment from our foundation partners including the Federal Government through the National Indigenous Australians Agency, South Australian Government through SAASTA, AFL Max, SEDA College and Northpoint Toyota.”

Tjindu Foundation launch unveils foundation programs

The work of the Tjindu Foundation is aligned to three pillars: Better Education and Employment; Connect Young People to Culture; and Health and Wellbeing Outcomes.

According to Tjindu Foundation co-founder and board director Paul Vandenbergh, who is a proud Wirangu man from SA’s far west coast, these objectives will be initially achieved through two keystone programs – the Tjindu AFL Max Academy and Tjindu STRONG – which combine innovative sporting, leadership, health, and cultural wellbeing initiatives.

“Our pillar programs – the Tjindu AFL Max Academy and Tjindu STRONG – will help remove the barriers to participation in the education system up to and beyond Year 12, and to develop culturally strong young people into successful adults and future leaders.” Mr Vandenbergh said.

“Regrettably, young Aboriginal people face barriers to engaging with their cultural identity, and we aim to remove those barriers through fun, inclusive and progressive engagement programs for our young people in the community.”

The Tjindu Foundation will also operate business-targeted Cultural Awareness Workshops to allow workplaces to develop literacy and familiarity with South Australia’s unique Aboriginal cultures.

Tjindu Foundation general manager and Ngarrindjeri and Narungga woman Kellie Graves says the organisation’s delivery of programs for adults will complement its youth focus.

“The Tjindu Foundation sees its role as not only supporting cultural development for our kids, but to help non-Aboriginal Australians understand our culture as well,” Ms Graves said.

“Our Cultural Awareness Workshops will help businesses create culturally-aware workplaces that can support our kids and their culture upon entering the workforce.

“We are passionate about working with a cross-section of the community to support culturally strong Aboriginal people, and also foster culturally supportive spaces in broader society.”

Tjindu Foundation AFL Max Academy

In partnership with AFL Max (based at Adelaide Airport), the Tjindu AFL Max Academy is a high-performance Australian Football program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior students. The program is invitation-based for 30 male and 30 female students where they will attend a once-per-week education and high-performance training day at AFL Max. Successful completion of the program results in participants earning a Certificate III in Sport Coaching, points towards their SACE certificate and opportunities to undertake workforce participation via AFL Max and SEDA Group.


Tjindu STRONG provides cultural and educational support for Aboriginal students and families in remote communities. The program encourages students to make smart life choices supported by guided discussion workshops. Integral to Tjindu STRONG is the delivery of cultural identity programs where students are enabled to express and share their identity and engage with their personal language groups and culture. The ultimate goal is for students to build their own individual understanding of who they are as Aboriginal people.

Cultural Awareness Workshops

The Tjindu Foundation operates Cultural Awareness training for businesses seeking to attain understanding of Aboriginal culture, its diversity, historical challenges and future opportunities. These workshops allow organisations to undertake immersive activities that will improve their awareness and understanding of Aboriginal history, culture, people and communities.

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