Distance no barrier for online diploma students

Posted on 20 Apr 2021

By Matthew Schulz

Eloise Page ICDA diploma student at Balgo
Remote governance diploma student Eloise Page at the small Indigenous community of Balgo, 900km east of Broome and 2800km north of Perth. The community is famed for its artists, cultural history and love of sport. Residents of the Balgo community speak Indigenous languages including Kukatja, Walmajarri, Jaru, Pintipi, Warlpiri and Kriol.

Broome student Eloise Page has become the first person to complete ICDA’s governance diploma course in its new online form, despite living 2,000km from her nearest capital city, Darwin.

Ms Page said she would never have been able to complete a face-to-face course because of all her other commitments, but she managed the virtual year-long diploma course in less than the six months it has been available.

She said virtual discussions and roleplays with other students were a highlight of the revised diploma, and she now had renewed confidence in tackling challenging governance issues at her organisation. “It has exceeded my expectations,” Ms Page said.

Ms Page is the corporate services manager at the Garnduwa Amboorny Wirnan Aboriginal Corporation, based in Broome in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region.

Her organisation services a vast area of the country where a trip to visit a satellite office in Kununurra involves a 12-hour drive.

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Eloise Page of Garnduwa, Broome

Good governance is crucial for an organisation that needs to cover a lot of ground, and Ms Page said the diploma had delivered.

“I think that the course has cemented my knowledge and increased my confidence so that I can now provide better governance support to the CEO and board.

“At our recent AGM, the CEO threw to me unexpectedly about a rule book issue, and I felt much more able to respond and advise than I would have previously.

“I really feel that this diploma has been a great investment for my workplace.”

That included a much better handle on where to seek information and assistance, she said.

It is the first time students from such far-flung corners of Australia have been able to study with ICDA without travelling to a big centre. Alongside others in remote areas of Western Australia, there are now students in Humpty Doo and Tenant Creek in the Northern Territory, in Roma in central Queensland, at Wallerawang in central NSW, on King Island off Victoria, and at Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

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Even those in remote locations can now study the Diploma of Governance with the course now fully online. Picture W. Bulach/Wikimedia Commons

“But of course one of the big challenges out this way has been governance training that’s really accessible. That’s where this diploma is so welcome.”

Ms Page said Garnduwa channels the power of sports and recreation to build community, culture and leadership, empowering Kimberley residents to live healthier lives.

The organisation’s commitment to women leaders in the Kimberley is reflected in its decision to support Ms Page’s studies, even though she had been prepared to pay for the course herself.

Ms Page completed the diploma while also parenting four children and studying for a degree in dementia care.

“Some people said I was mad, but it’s something I’m really passionate about.

“Without good governance, an organisation is destined for difficulty.

“Good governance keeps an organisation on track with strategic directions, compliance and financial obligations [and] is the difference between a non-profit thriving and failing.

“The strong governance structures already in place at Garnduwa have been so important during COVID-19 and helped us to keep the organisation strong and safe.”

Ms Page said she hoped to use her studies to mentor future Indigenous leaders to take her place at the helm of Garnduwa.

“That’s the ultimate goal for anyone in a not-for-profit, don’t you think? We should all be working toward not being needed.”

Diploma gives Mandy 'appetite for more'

Mandy Pearce
Mandy Pearce says the diploma has given her new-found confidence

Recent Diploma of Governance graduate Mandy Pearce is already using her studies to great effect at two not-for-profits.

Ms Pearce manages the property crimes program at the not-for-profit Victims of Crime NT and last year took on a board role at the Darwin-based Amity Community Services, which provides programs to address alcohol, drugs, gambling and mental health issues.

Ms Pearce said the course was “a fantastic, balanced tool to help understand and apply all aspects of good governance” that had “given me a great appetite for more”.

She said she had learnt from every session and had applied her new-found knowledge in both her roles.

She said the course had also given her the confidence and knowledge to step in to address areas of improvement, and to “speak up and initiate change”.

Ms Pearce hopes to stay in contact with fellow students up north and “keep talking governance”.

Diploma is a big step up out west

Amanda Wallam
Amanda Wallam is among the first to undertake the revamped diploma

Based at Brunswick, a beautiful coastal region two hours' drive south of Perth, Amanda Wallam is studying for the governance diploma as a step up to greater responsibility.

As an executive assistant at the Noongar-controlled South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS), Ms Wallam says her study will help her to reach her goal of becoming the organisation’s corporate secretary.

It’s an important gig at an Indigenous service that caters for more than 4000 clients through its main Bunbury clinic and operates six outreach centres, a large team of doctors and nurses, and teams working with chronic health conditions, maternal health, mental health and health promotion.

“I need to have the qualifications to do this vital role,” Ms Wallam says.

ICDA’s course was the only training "that suited my needs”, which included accommodating full-time workers and being “tailored for not-for-profits”.

Ms Wallam hopes to help not only her own organisation but also other not-for-profits that find governance “daunting and complex”.


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