Qantas together with its Ambassador Hugh Jackman, announced a new grants initiative with the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF) that will empower young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be leaders in their communities.
The initiative will be funded by a $1.4 million donation from the Qantas Foundation and help IMF graduates, known as Frontrunners, further their education or career, pursue a business enterprise or support a community development project.
Founded by world champion marathon runner Robert De Castella, IMF selects a squad of 18-30 year old Indigenous men and women from around Australia to train for the New York Marathon with little or no running experience. An IMF squad member graduates when they cross the finish line in New York.
Qantas Ambassador Hugh Jackman said he was proud to represent Qantas as it deepened its relationship with IMF.
“I’ve been so impressed by the inspirational work that Rob does and the brilliant young runners he’s mentoring through IMF,” said Mr Jackman.
“I’m a passionate believer that if you give young people the opportunity and the tools to make a difference, there’s no limit to what they can achieve. That’s what IMF has been doing for the past five years and with the Qantas grant program we want to take it to the next level.
“The finish line in New York is really just the starting point for these young leaders and I can’t wait to see what they do next.”
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said creating opportunities for young Indigenous people was fundamental to Qantas’ role as national carrier and at the heart of its Reconciliation Action Plan.
“We’re hugely excited about the potential for this initiative,” said Mr Joyce. “We know that the most powerful thing Australia can do for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is develop the skills, the ideas, the social programs and above all the leadership that can make a concrete difference in Indigenous communities.
“The Qantas-funded grant program will give IMF graduates a platform to build on their achievements and realise their potential as Australia’s next generation of Indigenous leaders.
“IMF changes the lives of its graduates. We want to enable those graduates to change lives in their communities.”
Robert De Castella welcomed the Qantas investment.
“When the runners cross the finish line of the biggest marathon in the world they know they can achieve anything. They become role models within their communities and are leaders in the promotion of health and physical exercise to help alleviate the high instance of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Mr De Castella.
“Qantas is making strategic decisions that will have a very real and direct impact both for individuals in the short term and for entire communities in the longer term.
“The Qantas Grants will help kick start our graduates’ journey to step up and lead change in their community be it through creating a small business or developing sports programs like previous graduates,” said Mr De Castella.
Qantas is committed to reconciliation and building relationships for change between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In July 2015, Qantas’ Reconciliation Action Plan – first launched in 2007 – was awarded Elevate status, the highest level of endorsement by Reconciliation Australia.
Since 2010, there have been 43 graduates of IMF, all of whom have contributed in some way to creating change in their lives and those of their families and communities. By 2018, there will be over 80 graduates.
The 2015 Indigenous Marathon Foundation squad of ten young Indigenous Australians will fly to New York tomorrow to run in this year’s marathon.