David Wirrpanda Foundation

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

The Foundation adopts a range of approaches that are shown to be effective in delivering positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. A primary feature of the Foundation is the organisation's ability to access resources from a wide range of sources and agencies (both externally and from within communities) that provides them with a large capacity to deliver effective programs.

Delivered by

David Wirrpanda Foundation: A community-based not-for-profit charity.


The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by the Grants Manager at the Foundation.

Service type

The Foundation delivers a range of school retention, employment and health and wellbeing programs exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people using a mentoring approach aimed at empowering and building the capacity of Aboriginal individuals, their families and their communities.


The Foundation programs are delivered in metropolitan and regional Western Australia, including, Bunbury, Mandurah, Narrogin, Karratha, Wickham, Broome, Kellerberrin, Northam, Katanning and Perth. Three interstate programs are delivered in Queanbeyan & Sydney, NSW and in Healesville, VIC.


Since 2005, the Foundation has aimed to increase the retention of Aboriginal students in school and improve their life choices after leaving school by encouraging further study or entry into the workforce. This aim has been met through the delivery of carefully constructed, culturally inclusive programs which assist Aboriginal children, families and communities to be better equipped to contribute to significant social decisions that directly impact upon their lives. The Foundation's mentoring programs aim to reduce the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australian society through a cross-generational approach that:

  • increases the retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in school;
  • improves the life choices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples by encouraging further study or entry into the workforce;
  • sustains Aboriginal employment through cross-cultural training; and,
  • improves the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

The Foundation's programs include:

"The Wirra Club"; a reward-based program that provides primary school aged homework support for Aboriginal children. The aim is to promote school attendance and improve the behaviour and achievement of Aboriginal children. The program has attracted 12,800 young people since 2005.

"Deadly Sista Girlz"; a secondary school aged health and wellbeing and school attendance promotion for young women that is delivered in ten local schools, seven community locations and three schools interstate. The program has engaged 2,500 girls in the past four and a half years.

"Troy Cook Health and Leadership"; a secondary school aged health & wellbeing and school attendance promotion that is delivered over a ten week period for young people aged 13-17 to experience the life of a professional athlete alongside program mentors. Over the past four and a half years, the program has successfully engaged 2,500 young people.

"P242" (Plan 2day 4 2morrow); an employment assistance and workplace readiness program aimed at inspiring and creating opportunities for long-term unemployed Aboriginal people aged 18+ to reach their full potential and gain employment.

"Gwabba Yorga Gabba Worra"; a binge drinking intervention and prevention initiative aimed at promoting the health of Aboriginal girls' aged 12-17 years. The program is currently being developed as a pilot program in partnership with Netball WA.

"Moorditj Mums"; a pilot mother and baby health and wellbeing program aimed at young mothers to encourage better parenting and pathways to education and employment. The program has provided intensive support to nine Aboriginal mothers and their children to help them gain employment or further education.

"Wickham Wirra Club Homework Centre"; the centre operates three days per week to provide healthy snacks for Aboriginal children and support with homework. The centre is fully supported by the community and Roebourne District School, and has received an additional three years of funding from Rio Tinto due to attendance and retention successes.


The Foundation's existing funding is acquired through 26 funding agreements with a range of stakeholders. The breakdown of funding is approximately:

  • State Government 6%
  • Federal Government 30%
  • Corporate support 40%
  • Philanthropic/Donations 13%
  • Fundraising 11%

Current funding partners include: Auzcorp; Skywest; ANZ Bank; BHP Billiton; WA Water Corporation; Newman's Own Foundation; WA Health Department; Healthway, Netball Australia (No School No Play); Backstop Foundation; Commonwealth Bank; Shell Australia; Australian Government Department of Education, Employement and Workplace Relations (DEEWR); Australian National Preventative Health Association; St Georges Foundation; PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia (PwC); Office of Road Safety; Peel Health Campus; Rio Tinto, Woodside; Australian Government Attorney Generals Department (AGD); Marine and Civil; and, and Leighton Contractors.


MOST promising aspect

All the Foundation programs target different stages of Aboriginal peoples' lives through a holistic approach to service delivery.

This is achieved through programs that are:

  • owned and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff who live in the communities they serve.
  • culturally appropriate and delivered in a safe manner in accordance with the specific needs of the communities;
  • evidence-based by ensuring regular evaluations are conducted during and after program delivery to ensure they are effective for young Aboriginal people and their communities;
  • transferrable by establishing and maintaining healthy partnerships to ensure information is shared and the strengths of partner organisations are fully utilised; and,
  • sustainable by accessing a wide range of corporate, philanthropic and Government funding in conjunction with a range of internal fundraising activities. This helps to minimise the risk of financial shortfalls for the Foundation.
Evidence base and opportunities

The Foundation focuses on delivering a collaborative interagency approach to service delivery that serves to maximise funding and resources and to share information. The approach provides the Foundation's programs with the capacity to deliver services that are effective in responding to multiple and complex issues of a particular population, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

The Foundation's programs adopt a consultative strategy in program design, delivery and refinement, where service participants and communities are consulted as part of a bottom-up program approach. The involvement of the wider community provides a foundation for building vital friendships, social support and community connections that can facilitate a pathway to involvement in the wider community. The approach also helps to build community ownership of the programs and to build and establish trust from within the communities, which is a key ingredient in program effectivenesss. Giving clients and the community the capacity to make decisions about the program empowers them and enhances their commitment to the program. It also results in culturally appropriate programs that help to build language and literacy, and have greater effect in responding to the needs of clients.

The Foundation's programs provide safe, comfortable and non-stigmatising venues which has been shown to build trust and engagement and to help build supportive peer networks. The venues and programs delivered also serve to provide a soft entry point for clients, particulalry in relation to the health and wellbeing programs, to access more intensive support if required. The use of mentors helps to achieve positive outcomes, particularly for at-risk youth, and trained and committed staff and mentors are essential for retaining participants and achieving program objectives.

There are further opportunities for other agencies to adopt similar approaches to the Foundation's service design, delivery and refinement as they are shown in the literature to be effective in delivering real outcomes to Aboriginal youth, families and communities.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

All the Foundation's programs are designed and delivered by local Aboriginal people to ensure the programs are culturally appropriate and safe. The majority of the Foundation's staff (18 full time workers and 18 casual staff) are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and every staff member completes the Foundation's 'Deadly Culture' cross-cultural awareness training. The program delivery staff are ALL Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are local and well respected in their communities. Consultation with these staff is a daily occurrence and they all play a leading role in developing, implementing and delivering the programs. All Foundation mentors are also local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander role models who are required to complete culturally appropriate facilitator and mentor training.

Cultural practices and materials

The design, implementation and delivery of the Foundation's programs are undertaken by and for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, and therefore they own and lead the programs in accordance with the specific needs of their own communities. This ensures the programs are culturally and contextually appropriate and delivered in a safe manner. For example, the sexual health and cooking programs were designed by Aboriginal Elders and include local Aboriginal language and the creation of an Indigenous 'space' at the commencement of the course.


The adaptability of the Foundation's programs is enabled by taking a "bottom-up" approach to program design and implementation. This means that local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members are able to adapt the programs as they see fit to facilitate appropriate responses to their own community's needs.


Evaluation status

The Foundation's programs have been externally/independently evaluated. The instruments used for the evaluations included written evaluations following client participation in the programs and the effects of the programs on participants by pre-test and post-test comparison. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were involved in the evaluations through Edith Cowan University's (ECU) Kurungkurl Katidjin Indigenous Education Unit who undertook some of the external evaluations.


Demonstrated outcomes

The Foundation delivered a large number of events, activities and workshops that were successfully planned and delivered to meet the funding objectives. The programs were delivered in consultation and in partnership with a number of external agencies which helped to achieve excellent participation numbers. All the Foundation's programs achieved every stated project objective and excellent feedback was received from both participants and stakeholders. Many of the programs have been sustained beyond the funding periods and remain ongoing. For example, the P242 program aimed to deliver a four week pre-employment course to one group of participants yet it ended up being delivered for a further three years to multiple groups of participants. This ultimately resulted in the existing partnership with a large vocational training institute and the program now provides sustainable, long-term vocational training courses for 96 Aboriginal people seeking vocational skills and employment.

Each project delivered by the Foundation has been completed on budget, and the financial expenditures against deliverables are currently being professionally audited. Stakeholder feedback regarding each program has been very positive, reflecting not only the value of engaging Aboriginal youth in such programs but also their strong learrning and development outcomes. These outcomes have in turn led to secure employment for many of the participants. For example, one program was successful in placing ten of the 19 participants directly into employment with Woolworths Supermarkets upon completion of the program.

The Foundation has provided strong evidence to demonstrate that project outcomes have been delivered. For example, the youth engagement programs have had a significant impact on local and regional communities as evidenced by feedback from stakeholders through external evaluations of the programs. The excellent employment outcomes achieved through the programs have produced positive community flow-on effects for the benefit of the communities, such as higher labour supply. Participant surveys have shown excellent outcomes in relation to building the self-esteem of participants, as well as positively influencing participants to attend school more often, set career goals and intending to continue with schooling in order to achieve those goals. The community has also responded favourably to the sustainability of the Foundation's programs by reporting a positive local impact and a belief that longer-term impacts can be sustained for their communities.

Other evidence

The Foundation has so far reached over 20,000 Aboriginal people since its establishment in 2005. The founding Director, David Wirrpanda, received the NAIDOC 2012 Person of the Year award for the Foundation's important work in helping to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's disadvantage and for the success he has inspired in helping others to contribute to positive outcomes in their local Aboriginal communities.

The Foundation's success is also recognised through the following awards and achievements:

  • a National Community Crime Prevention Merit Award in 2012 for the Foundation work in Indigenous communities;
  • the Deadly Sista Girlz program was named as a best practice project by the Western Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People 'Building Blocks' report (Pp 81-83 in 2012);
  • Deadly Sista Girlz was also named as a best practice program in the AMP Foundations 'Best of Every Woman' report in November 2012 (p 52); and,
  • 'Solid Future', a P242 Employment Program won the WA Training Excellence Award in 2011.

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