Reflecting on the Envato Foundation’s first year with its partners.
It’s a long way from the leafy-green bamboo shoots outside the Riverbend Books store in the Brisbane suburb of Bulimba to Envato’s HQ in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, but the two locations are forever linked thanks to the work of the Envato Foundation.
First formed in 2018 and launching with four partners in 2019, the Foundation was established to support the development and education of Australia’s young Indigenous population, partnering with charitable organisations that focus on opportunity creation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In its first 12 months, the Foundation pledged more than $700,000 to its four partners – Ganbina, Yalari, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Indigitek – to cover programs for the next three to six years.
At the time, CEO Collis Ta’eed remarked that while Envato is a global company, with proud Australian roots, they wanted to contribute to uniquely Australian causes when they created the foundation, something that would give the company – and the people therein – a means of aligning business with purpose, and giving back to the wider community.
It’s a mission that dovetails nicely with the aspirations of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), which initially began in 2004 as a readers challenge at, Riverbend Books, owned by former teacher Suzy Wilson. That challenge has gone on to become a Foundation of its own, driven to make a difference in the lives of Indigenous families by gifting thousands of books and running programs to inspire Australian Indigenous communities to tell and publish their own stories.
The relationship with the Envato Foundation might still only be in its infancy, but for the ILF’s Relationships Manager David Stewart, it’s a partnership that is already having a huge impact. “The support for our Book Supply program has enabled us to purchase and distribute 10,000 books – 5,000 each year – to remote communities across Australia. “Giving children access to culturally appropriate books, that the community have selected, has had an incredible effect on those communities where access to books is limited where there are often few to no books available.”
“We believe that a successful partnership is ultimately where there is an open and engaged relationship between the organisations, where staff from both organisations can see the benefits of the relationship and feel that everyone is contributing,” says David Stewart. “And I’m pleased that the engagement has been really strong between our two organisations from the very beginning.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by the Chair of the Envato Foundation, Briany Kalms. “It’s been so great to connect with different people who are passionate about driving change in education for Indigenous students and how we can best support them,” she explained.
“We’ve been very fortunate to team up with the partners that we have and the relationships have developed naturally and easily. It’s like we’ve been friends for years! There is mutual respect on both sides and a natural appreciation for the work each organisation does.”
Ganbina CEO Anthony Cavanagh also speaks in positive terms about the burgeoning relationship his organisation has with the Envato Foundation. “As with any new relationships, the importance of authenticity is key, about why Ganbina is being supported by this organisation. And I really believe that the people I’ve met through the Foundation so far – Collis, Briany and others – are all in it for the right reasons. They really want to learn along the journey, be guided by us and Aboriginal leaders as to what the main issues are, and with that info come through with the appropriate support.”
Founded in 1997, Ganbina was established to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 6-25 years in the Goulburn Valley region to reach their full individual potential through self-determination and meaningful engagement in education, training, enterprise and employment programs. In the four years between 2016 to 2019, Ganbina assisted 579 young people, creating $60,000 of social value per person in the process.
Anthony continues, “The support of the Foundation has enabled us to deliver on our promise to the community; that we will deliver our programs in full, and support as many kids as we can. We’ve had record registrations each year, so this funding has enabled us to help more kids, to honour our commitment to families, to build on and establish stronger partnerships with schools and education and employment sectors.”
“For every $1 invested in Ganbina’s mission, we create $6.60 in social and cultural value. It’s clear that we live our motto – Agents of Change – each and every day.”
For the team at Indigitek, a technology and STEM advocacy network, the support of the Foundation has enabled them to grow positively. “It means we’ve been able to bring on our first full-time staff member to support our volunteers and temporary team members,” says co-founder Liam Ridgeway.
“This has had positive flow-on effects, enabling us to have the continuity in the outputs and operational requirements that we were previously challenged with delivering, due to the fact that our volunteers and the board and advisors were really only able to work on Indigitek in their spare time.”
“In turn, it also means we could make sustained and ongoing progress with our community engagement programs development for primary and high schools, increase the number of events we were hosting (pre-lockdown), while also creating a better structure for how we engage with our volunteers.”
“This is why we exist as an organisation, we want to further drive opportunities for our community at both a cultural and economic level and we want to support non-Indigenous participation in order to strengthen the shared journey,” says Liam Ridgeway.
Back at Envato’s Melbourne offices, Briany says the early progress the Foundation has made has sharpened the board’s focus for the years to come. “It’s solidified for us that the direction we have already committed to taking is the right one. Our vision has always been centred around creating equal opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and we will continue to work towards that by supporting organisations that we feel can maximise their impact.”