A purpose-built building in Yarrabah will be officially opened on Tuesday, December 8 in honor of much-loved Elder Aunty Fiona Patterson to provide a welcoming space for the community’s young female residents to continue their ongoing learning and reach their full potential.
The JTBelieve building was made possible thanks to Lendlease and Ausco Modular who donated the building to the Johnathan Thurston Academy, in honor of Aunty Fiona.
Aunty Fiona has spent almost 20 years supporting the community’s young people through her work at the local school, church, as a Community Police Liaison Officer, and recently as the Johnathan Thurston Academy (JT Academy) JTBelieve Officer for the federally-funded JTBelieve program in the Yarrabah community.
JT Academy Managing Director Johnathan Thurston said Aunty Fiona had been instrumental over the past few years in supporting young people in Yarrabah to engage in their learning, school engagement and encouraging them to chase their dreams and reach their full potential.
“The idea for a dedicated space for Yarrabah’s young women was always Aunty Fiona’s dream,” Johnathan said. “She has always wanted to create a welcoming and safe place where they could continue their learning – a place to call their own.
“We could not have done this without the wonderful support of our major employment partner Lendlease and Ausco Modular. Thank you for your extraordinary contribution to donating this building.
“Thanks also to Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council and Yarrabah State School for your ongoing support of young women in your community.
“For the past few years, Aunty Fiona has been a valued team member of our Academy and has done such an incredible job in supporting young people to chase their dreams,” Johnathan said. “I’m so proud that we could do this for Aunty Fiona as she has given so much over the years, and this is our way to say thank you.
“The building provides a great opportunity to continue Aunty Fiona’s amazing work in supporting the younger generation of the Yarrabah community, in delivering the JTBelieve program. Thanks to her, young women will continue to have a light shone on them for years to come.”
Around 25 Lendlease volunteers took part in the community project at Yarrabah to build the new JT Believe center.
General Manager for Lendlease Building in Queensland, Brad Protheroe, said the construction of the Yarrabah JTBelieve center paid homage to Aunty Fiona Patterson as a Community Elder and mentor for the next generation of First Nations leaders.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only highlighted the significant isolation experienced by many young in Australia but also the impact to the overall confidence, education, and skill set of many First Nations youth in Communities such as Yarrabah,” Mr. Protheroe said.
“We hope that the Yarrabah JTBelieve center, under the leadership of Aunty Fiona, will give the students the boost they need to not only get through school but perhaps even pursue a career in construction one day.
“As we celebrate the release of our new Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan, we’re committed to working with First Nations communities, such as Yarrabah, where the truth of a place, and First Nations cultures and languages are protected, respected and valued by all Australians.”
Ausco Modular Construction Manager Craig Canning said they were proud to donate the building and support Aunty Fiona’s vision to ensure the next generation had a welcoming space to reach their potential.
“Aunty Fiona has given so much to the community and it was wonderful we could play a part in honoring all the great work she does on so many levels within the community,” Craig said. “She has supported many generations of the Yarrabah community and hopefully through this center we can continue for generations to come.”
Johnathan and his team at the JT Academy also thank NBN, for the amazing donation of the satellite dish, Johnson Controls for their expertise in providing a security system for the building, and Bama Services for their contribution to Aunty Fiona’s tree.