The Opening the Doors Foundation was launched on 4th August, 2001 – the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. The Foundation has grown out of the community organisation, the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Melbourne (ACM) after the ACM identified the gaps that existed in the services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in regard to educational opportunities in Melbourne and across Victoria. Many families wished to access Catholic education and to have more control over their child's educational experience. In 2003 the Foundation expanded to support all non-government schooling for Aboriginal students.
In the first year the Foundation supported 32 students across Victoria and has steadily grown ever since. In 2020 the Foundation has supported over 856 students. In 2021 the Foundation is set to turn 20! Over the past 20 years, the Foundation has provided over 10,000 grants to 3,000 Aboroiginal students.
On Saturday, August 4 2001, Aboriginal children’s Day at 11am at the Australian Catholic University, Fitzroy, the Foundation, then named Keeping Koorie Kids in Catholic Education, was officially launched by Archbishop Denis Hart.
The two Co-Patrons of the Foundation, Professor Joy Murphy Wandin and Emeritus Archbishop Sir Frank Little were in attendance with the Trustees of the Foundation; John Arthur, Melissa Brickell, Pat Fitzgerald, Kevin Messer, Carol Messer, Vicki Walker, with an apology from Joyce Smith.
The 110 guests included Elders and members of the Aboriginal community of Victoria, the Director of CEO Melbourne, members of religious orders, members of the clergy, general public and State Government. Mr Alf Bamblett, Director of the Aborigines advancement League, was the Master of Ceremonies and Joy Murphy conducted the Welcome to Country and the ceremonial smoking of the Foundation Trust Deeds.
Members of the Birri-on-lakidjeka dance troupe performed, and Troy Brickell accompanied the ceremony with the didgeridoo. There was a general atmosphere of excitement and positive achievement that this long-held dream of the members of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and the Binnap Partners was coming to fruition.
Vicki Walker spoke of the Foundation as being a community response to a strongly expressed community need; this aspect of community was extended by Archbishop Hart who spoke of the Foundation now being a responsibility of the Catholic community of Victoria.
Kutcha Edwards sang the song, The Gift, a song that had been written in collaboration with Koorie students from the northern region of the Catholic schools of Melbourne. It is a beautiful song, capturing the spirit of reconciliation and the essence of the GIFT that our children are to the whole community.
Alf Bamblett emphasised the fact that the Koorie community has a high proportion of its population under 10 years of age offering much scope for the Foundation into the future! The Foundation now moves into its next and most important phase: that of building up its revenue base so that it can be a positive empowering factor in giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families a choice in educating their children well into the future. Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Melbourne, 6 August 2001.