The University of the Sunshine Coast’s (UniSC) School of Education and Tertiary Access (SETA) has a long-standing relationship with TFFF, having delivered the Rural and Remote Education Program for over a decade.  The Program is a collaboration with almost 100 state and independent schools and provides bursaries and annual immersion trips for preservice teachers to experience life and teaching in a rural, regional, or remote context.

Attracting and retaining teachers in rural, regional, and remote schools is a persistent challenge, marked by staff shortages and excessive workloads that have dramatically worsened in recent years. The 2017 Independent Review into Regional, Rural, and Remote Education highlighted this as “one of the most persistent challenges on the ‘education agenda’”. Despite nearly a third of teachers working in rural, regional, and remote settings, educating over a quarter of Australia’s students, recruitment and retention remain challenging, particularly for those with teaching experience.

Queensland, in particular, faces a crisis of staff shortages. Research commissioned by the Queensland College of Teachers in 2019 found that one in six teachers leave the profession within four years, with current attrition rates likely higher. A Question on Notice response in Queensland’s Parliament in 2022 revealed statewide teaching vacancies increased by 38 percent from 2021 to 2022, peaking at 1,050 teacher vacancies in May 2022 compared to 760 in the same period in 2021. In the regions, the shortage was more acute: the North Coast region experienced a staggering 573 percent increase in vacancies. Other regions saw similar spikes, with Far North Queensland the only region that saw a decrease in vacancies, from 209 in 2021 to 161 in 2022.

Teachers from rural backgrounds show a greater inclination to seek rural teaching jobs, drawn to the appeal of small-sized classes and the opportunity for personal connections with students and their families. Despite challenges like poorly resourced schools, they value the relationships and sense of community rural teaching positions offer. In a study in the Australian Journal of Education, Professors John Buchanan and Paul Burke of the University of Technology Sydney propose early introduction to rural teaching as a strategic approach.

Teacher education should prepare pre-service teachers for the circumstances they will encounter in rural schools. Core units of study on the dynamics of rural and remote teaching are called for,” says Professor Buchanan. “Rural educational disadvantage should be prioritised as a matter of social justice.”

“Pre-service teachers who gain experiences in a rural school are more likely to teach in rural schools. Even field trips to rural locations can develop confidence about rural or remote teaching,” says Professor Burke.

The Rural and Remote Education Program assists with planning and the financial hardship associated with rural and remote placements, while Coast to Country trips offer pre-service teachers rich immersion experiences through which students can see the best of rural and remote Queensland community lifestyles.  Both program elements aim to support decision making upon graduation that secures high-quality teachers for rural and remote schools.

Since 2010, the TFFF and UniSC partnership has enabled 803 bursary-funded placements. This has resulted in teachers accepting positions in rural, regional, and remote schools and the provision of a quality education to children and families in those areas. These bursaries ensure UniSC can deliver life-changing experiences for students and positive outcomes for rural and remote communities.

The students’ positive experiences during these placements often lead to valuable employment opportunities and help address some of the teacher shortages in rural and remote communities.

 The impact these teachers have on rural communities cannot be underestimated, and many of our teachers say they get so much in return from the children, families and communities they work in.

- Professor Helen Bartlett, UniSC Vice-Chancellor and President

Financial support and rich immersion experiences provided by UniSC's Rural and Remote Education Program during pre-service teachers' placements have led to valuable employment opportunities. These teachers have a significant impact on rural communities, and many of them have continued to teach in remote locations.

Bursary recipients Denby Batista and Raquel Remigio-Smith both participated in a Coast to Country trip before going on to placements at rural schools. Denby described her time in Blackwater, near Rockhampton, as incredibly memorable.

“[Blackwater State School] welcomed us with open arms and warmth and care. The students that we worked with offered me a whole new perspective on education and the varying needs of students across Queensland.”

Raquel’s placement took place in Moranbah, near Mackay, in “an environment which radiates warmth and inclusivity.”

“The four weeks I spent there were irreplaceable. It showed me the profound impact that quality education can have on the futures of individuals and communities in rural and remote regions of Queensland.”

Raquel Remigio-Smith (second from right) with fellow student teachers at Moranbah State School.

Denby and Raquel will both return to their respective schools for their final practical experience this year.

Past recipient Blaire Thompson taught in Innisfail, Far North Queensland, an experience that she says was unique.

“I find country kids are more open to forming positive relationships with their teachers, and in doing so we build a sense of community, which has probably been the best part.”

"I never thought I'd be so passionate about it, but coming up here has definitely opened my eyes to how impactful teaching can be, especially for rural students.”

Fellow past recipient Maxine Kirby’s first remote placement occurred in Dysart, near Mackay, where she taught for four years before transferring to Gindie, near Emerald. Here, she had the opportunity to step into a leadership role, serving as the school’s principal from 2019-2020.

Maxine received a Tim Fairfax Family Foundation bursary while in her final year of university, and says it made a “huge difference.”

It gives people who have that curiosity the push to give it a go.”

Read more about Blaire and Maxine’s experiences here.

Cover photo courtesy of Marie Dunn. All photos courtesy of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The University of the Sunshine Coast's School of Education and Tertiary Access is supported through the Leadership stream.

The TFFF has long recognised the significance of the work carried out by Indigenous-led organisations in Australia, and the importance of listening deeply to Traditional Owners, amplifying their voices, and supporting their solutions for meaningful change on their own terms.

At a moment of conversation throughout Australia, we felt it important to use our platform to cast a spotlight on the remarkable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people with whom the TFFF has a relationship, and the transformative work being carried out by those who lead the way toward positive change.

Throughout our 2022-2023 Annual Report, we have identified Indigenous-led organisations or agreements where TFFF funding has directly enabled the employment of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In total, the TFFF made 27 distributions in support of First Nations people and communities in 2023, and 16 of the 40 organisations partnered with were Indigenous-led.

37% of total funding in the past 12 months was directed to First Nations organisations, initiatives, or projects, with a total of $3.4M allocated to Indigenous led organisations and/or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wages.

The Annual Report also highlights three partner organisations led by or working with First Nations members to enact change:

MJD Foundation

The MJD Foundation is a grassroots, Aboriginal-controlled organisation that partners with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities to support families living with Machado-Joseph Disease (MJD) and Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 7 (SCA7).

MJD is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease found worldwide, with a higher prevalence among Aboriginal people with genetic ties to northeast Arnhem Land.

Established in 2008 on Groote Eylandt, the MJD Foundation addresses the lack of services and information for affected families. Its 'Our Way' approach includes primary health and disability support, genetic counseling, therapy, education, respite accommodation, visits to Country, research, and advocacy, and is based on a strong Aboriginal Community Worker two-way engagement model.

Gayangwa Lalara OAM, a Warnindilyakwa woman, plays a vital role in the organisation as Vice Chairperson and Senior Cultural Advisor. Under her leadership, the Foundation has expanded its reach to 26 remote communities, with funding from the FRRR SRC program enabling the development of permanent ‘in-place’ support services in Ngukurr.

Aboriginal Art Co.

Aboriginal Art Co. was founded by Amanda Hayman (Kalkadoon and Wakka Wakka) and Troy Casey (Kamilaroi) in 2019 to combat the issue of inauthentic Indigenous-style consumer products in Australia. The 2022 Productivity Commission revealed that up to 75% of such products were fake, resulting in substantial income losses for First Nations people.

Aboriginal Art Co., as Brisbane's first Indigenous Art Centre, connects Indigenous Art Centres and artists from regional and remote Australia to the Queensland market. It prioritises ethical practices, with approximately 70% of sales revenue returning to artists and art centres, and is working towards the realisation of a self-sustaining and self-determining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander retail and arts industry in Australia.

Aboriginal Art Co. is committed to connecting Indigenous culture and commerce, providing employment and development opportunities that include its artist-in-residence program, retail and gallery assistants, workshop facilitators, caterers, photographers, and models, along with its social enterprise fashion label Magpie Goose.

Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership & Thriving First Nations Kids Initiative

The Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (TQKP) is addressing the need to ensure all Queensland children and young people have a positive start in life. By working to connect organisations, individuals, services, and systems, and to facilitate shared access to resources, knowledge, and networks, TQKP aims to ensure children, young people and families are supported to thrive.

TFFF has invested in two of TQKP's ten initiatives: the Thriving Queensland Kids Country Collaborative and the Thriving First Nations Kids Initiative (TFNKI). TQKP prioritises supporting the self-determination of child health related First Nations leaders and organisations, working closely with a range of First Nations leaders, organisations and communities, including Queensland Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP) to advance a co-design process for the TFNKI.

Sarah Callinan, a Wangkangurru woman with expertise in early childhood development, has been appointed as the First Nations Strategic Partnerships Lead. Sarah has been involved in a range of initiatives and strategies aimed at improving early childhood outcomes for First Nations children, and has an exceptional understanding of brain and early childhood development. The active involvement of Sarah, Garth Morgan (CEO, QATSICPP) and others will help support First Nations leadership and drive collective effort across systems to better enable Indigenous children to thrive.

View the full 2022-2023 Annual Report here.

Cover photo courtesy of Children's Ground.

The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation partnered with the University of Queensland to create an Executive Leadership Program to support leaders of TFFF partner organisations. Community leaders were provided with an opportunity to come together, to broaden their peer network, and to develop professional skills in the areas of leadership, collaboration, and sustainable innovation.

As a part of its Futureproof investment stream, the TFFF has worked in collaboration with the University of Queensland Business School (UQBS) to create the TFFF Executive Leadership Program. The program was designed to assist in strengthening impact and growth for organisations supported by TFFF, empowering leaders for long term, sustainable impact.  Through this program, TFFF aims to foster collaborative networks, cultivate leadership excellence, and encourage sustainable business practices that have a lasting impact on communities.

The program was facilitated by a team of leading UQ Business School academics in the fields of leadership, social impact, organisational culture, stakeholder management, and innovation. It was co-designed by a working group involving leaders of organisations currently supported by the TFFF.

TFFF Trustees and CEO pictured with UQ Business School program facilitators.

The inaugural cohort consisted of 12 leaders from organisations across Queensland and the Northern Territory, working in the arts, education, community services, and health sectors. Participants were provided with tools to develop leadership and organisational sustainability under the pillars of people and process: resilience, capacity building, collaboration and networking, along with sustainable business models, governance, and innovation.

Following an online pre-program session, TFFF Trustees, Advisors and staff hosted the inaugural cohort of the TFFF Executive Leadership Program for a welcome event on the evening of the 12th of May. Attendees then embarked on two days of in-person collaborative learning and professional development at the University of Queensland, and later completed a post-program check in.

TFFF Trustees and Advisors pictured with members of the inaugural cohort of the TFFF Executive Leadership Program.

Participants in the program have shared early reflections and insights following their experience:

"I would highly recommend this program continue and I look forward to connecting with the group members on an ongoing basis."

"I really appreciated engaging with the UQ faculty on Friday evening and during the breaks on Saturday. All UQ staff were passionate, knowledgeable and energized about the course."

"The other highlight was being able to share the time with so many people outside of [my] sector, all of whom are doing really important work. It was a real gift of exchange."

 "Deep gratitude to the Foundation for being so generous and invested in the organisations you support."

All photos by Thomas Oliver for Atmosphere Photography.

The TFFF Executive Leadership Program is funded through the Futureproof stream.

The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation is based in Meanjin (Brisbane).