Todd Phillips, who studied teaching, is the training and development manager of the Brisbane-based Institute of Indigenous Australia (IOIA), and Jermaine Alberts, a business graduate, is its CEO.
“After we graduated we both went and worked for the same mining company … we used to sit together in our lunchbreaks and talk about starting an education company,” Mr Phillips said.
Fast forward a few years and that company is now one of the biggest Indigenous institutions in Australia.
“We started in 2013 with 25 students in a library in Inala and then we moved into a residential house, then a commercial building,” Mr Phillips said.
“Now we have more than 900 students from all over Australia and even a few Indigenous Australians who are living overseas in Britain and Canada.”
The institute provides students with in-person and online training for diplomas and certificates, in areas such as business and community services.
“We want to be the leading Indigenous education provider in Australia and to empower students to go back to their community and have an impact,” Mr Phillips said.
“Our training is professional and accredited, but also has a strong focus on being culturally appropriate and 100 per cent of our course facilitators are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. We think that’s one of the reasons why our graduation rate is much higher than the national average for Indigenous tertiary education.”
Mr Phillips also has a Masters of Education Research from QUT and is doing his PhD part-time with the Faculty of Education.
His work with IOIA is helping fulfil a pledge he made back in 2008, while he was visiting New Orleans for an international student forum organised by former president Bill Clinton. As part of the international forum, students had to commit to one action, with Mr Phillips pledging to “pioneer things” and create resources to help Indigenous communities.