The Future is First Nations

Annual Report 2020

‘Introduction’ chapter background image

Acknowledgement of Country

NASCA acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia.

We honour and respect the cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have spiritual, social and cultural connections with their traditional lands and waters. We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to the communities on whose land NASCA works.

NASCA Values

The five foundations of our  objectives and strategies

‘NASCA Values’ chapter background image

We work with young people and their families, schools and communities in urban, regional and remote areas in NSW, WA and NT to build culturally rich relationships with young people.

We co-design with these young people the future they want for themselves. We use sport, music, dance, art, poetry and storytelling to strengthen our young people’s connection to culture.

Our programs are created to increase school engagement and school attendance and develop life skills. They are also designed to support our young people in feeling culturally safe and culturally connected.

NASCA is guided by five core values that anchor all of our objectives and strategies:

Cultural Pride & Inclusion





This year’s annual report is a telling of stories that convey the outcomes and impacts of our programs in 2020 – a year that posed significant challenges but proved our resilience and that of the young people and communities we work with.

The future is First Nations.

NASCA’s 2020 Year in Review

Our Impact

With First Nations culture at the centre of everything we do

‘Our Impact’ chapter background image

We work through Culture to connect with Community and Country so that we can strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples’ Capacities and support them to achieve their Calling.

“When I was in Year 8, I never wanted to finish Year 10 – now I’ve finished Year 12. My advice for younger students is to listen to NASCA because they will always be there for you, they will drop everything to help you get through school.”

Jack, Kingswood High School (Sydney), Class of 2020

NASCA is a 100% First Nations governed and led organisation. We place First Nations culture at the centre of everything we do.

Since our founding in 1995, NASCA has worked alongside more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their families, schools and communities. Together we have built real and lasting partnerships to support our young people in moving towards the future they see and set for themselves. This is where they will thrive.

NASCA is defined by the impact of our programs. The work we do in collaboration with our partners and supporters has resulted in thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people across Australia looking for, and taking, opportunities that are meaningful to them and their communities.

Yilara Widders – 2020 Cultural Pride & Inclusion Award Winner

Cultural Pride & Inclusion

In our community

‘Cultural Pride & Inclusion’ chapter background image

Pride in Aboriginality and culture permeates our work, informing our actions and inspiring our young people to strengthen cultural identities as the basis for healthy, fulfilled lives.

“I’ve learnt more about my culture by being part of NASCA. I hope schools will make Aboriginal Studies a compulsory non-elective subject so that our culture is taught not just to the Indigenous students who choose to learn about it but to all students at school in Australia.”

Jonathan, Richmond High School, NSW, Year 10

To feel safe, to feel valued, to know you are important – this is the starting point. Without this grounding, the young people we work with cannot make the most of the opportunities available to them. Strength in community is a vital building block in building the future we want to see.

Jonathan sees the centering of First Nations knowledge and experience in the wider Australian community as key to this process. “I would like more education of our culture and history, for all Australians to understand our culture and learn our untold history so that Australia will no longer be divided by race and culture. I would like our country to treat us equally.”

Jonathan Barber – 2020 NASCA NAIDOC Award Winner for Trust


In education

‘Trust’ chapter background image

We have learnt from years in the field that what matters are relationships, and this is what we’re good at. At the basis of all our work is trust.

NASCA has been working with Mikayla* at the Mount Allan School in Yuelamu, NT, for the past five years. She is now a student in the senior class.

Mikayla has a strong relationship with NASCA, and she trusts our support, so we are able to work closely alongside her, supporting and encouraging her learning. Mikayla attended school every day of our last visit, in November 2020, and she attended school every day of the following weeks.

Principal Phil Bartley says that he always sees more students at school when NASCA visits. “It has been fantastic to see Mikayla at school every day for two straight weeks. That is a result of the NASCA program sparking her interest in returning to school. We are so happy to have NASCA back at our school!”

*To ensure the safety of the young people we work with, some names have been changed.

Children gathered around their Trust Tree

Students created a ‘Trust Tree’ to identify their personal trust network, and after receiving support from NASCA (asking for help was one of the key learning concepts of the week) Mikayla identified several people she trusts within her family, friends network and school community and incorporated them into the class Trust Tree.

Trust Rainbows
How we build trust
  • Commitment, accountability and delivery
  • Extensive community consultation
  • Constant evaluation
  • Sticking to our values
  • Being passionate about what we do
How we maintain trust
  • Meaningful program evaluation
  • Sustained points of engagement (in person four times a year)
  • Virtual engagement (particularly in 2020!)
  • Clear communication and transparency
  • Working with communities on common goals
  • Two-way learning and positive engagement
How we build trustHow we maintain trust
  • Commitment, accountability and delivery
  • Extensive community consultation
  • Constant evaluation
  • Sticking to our values
  • Being passionate about what we do
  • Meaningful program evaluation
  • Sustained points of engagement (in person four times a year)
  • Virtual engagement (particularly in 2020!)
  • Clear communication and transparency
  • Working with communities on common goals
  • Two-way learning and positive engagement

“What I get out of NASCA is support from people I can call a second family. It is really good to connect with other students who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and I particularly like that NASCA teaches us about our culture. NASCA shows young Indigenous students that, with the proper support from the right people, we can achieve anything that we set our minds to. NASCA has helped me through a lot of tough times.”

Tia, Windsor High School (Sydney), Year 10
Tia Bates – 2020 NASCA NAIDOC Award Winner for Trust


In cultural knowledge

‘Excellence’ chapter background image

We persist through challenges in the pursuit of our purpose. Former student Jaida is a consistently high performer across academics, sports, leadership and school and community service – but it turns out Jaida is strong in her learning and strong in her culture.

“When I found out that I topped the state in Aboriginal Studies, I freaked out. Aboriginal Studies has always been my favourite subject and a huge inspiration for what I wish to do in the future. I believe my confidence and pride in my Aboriginality is a huge reason why I have achieved the things I have.”

Jaida, Alexandria Park Community School (Sydney), Class of 2020

Jaida not only came first in the state in her favourite subject, Aboriginal Studies, she finished her schooling last year with an ATAR score of 93.75. “I feel very proud and excited about my HSC result – but it was pretty unexpected.” Those who knew Jaida at Alexandria Park Community School, where she was a student for five years, were less surprised.

Maeve Thompson, Jaida’s Aboriginal Studies and English teacher, has high praise. “Jaida is nothing short of exceptional, I cannot speak highly enough of her. Words do not express the impact she has had on her school community, including me as one of her teachers. She is a shining light of the future generation, a true leader of this future.”

And more from her principal Diane Fetherston. “Jaida was voted by her peers and the staff of Alex Park as school captain in 2020. Alex Park is proud of its students and none more than Jaida, outstanding student, enthusiastic participant, inspirational leader and role model for our school community.”

The feelings are mutual. “I loved going to Alex Park. My teachers believed in me from the start and never stopped, especially when I didn’t believe in myself.”

NASCA’s Blake Borgia worked with Jaida for five years. “Jaida is wise beyond her years. She has been a big influence on her peers and even the staff and mentors who work with her. Jaida will only add strength and positivity to those around her. I wish her all the successes that come her way – it will be from the hard work and effort that she applies to her everyday life.”

Jaida says that NASCA provided her with a community of people who were proud to be Aboriginal and loved their culture and this offered her a chance to do the same. “Seeing Aboriginal people achieve the things they want was a huge inspiration, as it affirmed the idea that I could do anything I wanted, and that being Aboriginal wasn’t a barrier to my success but rather a helping hand. I became more confident and proud of my identity as a Kamilaroi woman, undoing the stereotypes I had internalised about being Aboriginal.”

And here’s a hot tip from Jaida’s friend, Zoe: “If you get the pleasure of meeting Jaida, and what an extraordinary pleasure that is, watch for the twinkle in her eye when you bring up decolonisation, and you too will see how she is a girl destined to change the system that has limited her.” Watch this space.

Jaida’s Inspiration


In the community

‘Collaboration’ chapter background image

We build meaningful, sustainable community partnerships that are vital to the development and implementation of our work. Through sharing knowledge and resources and building respectful, enquiring relationships, we take a long-term approach.

“We know NASCA as experts in First Nations education and since 2015 NASCA and Lendlease have partnered to support more than 500 First Nations young people in western Sydney. NASCA’s program is aligned with the school curriculum and they engage and involve the school, the students’ families and the broader local community. Their strength is the ability to drive cultural knowledge and identity into the programs they manage.”

Cath Brokenborough, Executive Lead, First Nations Engagement, Lendlease

Collaboration is not merely transactional. It is about the relationships we develop with our corporate partners, with our volunteers and donors, with community. It is about the values and aspirations we share and which become the foundation of our work and success.

The evolution and growth of our relationship with Lendlease exemplifies what NASCA strives for in all of our partnerships – true collaboration.

Connor Sharp – 2020 NASCA NAIDOC Collaboration Award Winner

“We value the relationship we have developed with NASCA. We’ve been very impressed with the impact they have made in the Indigenous communities they work with and more importantly with how they’ve built such strong relationships within these communities.”

Ed Bassingthwaighte, NASCA volunteer, TAL Regional Manager (NSW/ACT), TAL Community Foundation Board member

As NASCA has evolved, we’ve focused on getting the details right, building a strong foundation from which we are now scaling our impact. To do that, we’ve stayed true to our purpose, listened to our young people and the communities we work with, and collaborated closely with key partners.

Our Inner Circle of donors are our partners – together, we are equally committed to creating the conditions for First Nations young people to truly fulfil their potential. TAL is in our Inner Circle.

For Anthea Jackson, TAL Community Foundation Manager, the partnership with NASCA was an important match in the alignment of values. “What stood out for us from the beginning was a strong sense of purpose and leadership, and each and every interaction confirms that we have chosen the right partner in NASCA. Our aim for the partnership is to support the work NASCA is uniquely qualified to do. For both of our organisations, it’s about the people.”

Anthea Jackson, TAL Community Foundation Manager

In February 2020, Chris Murphy, TAL Business Development Manager, volunteered with NASCA at remote Wiluna, WA. He says for him the week was a game changer. “To go into a community very different from your own, and go in with the trust that comes with wearing the NASCA uniform, you learn about community, you learn about yourself. My biggest takeaway was a leap forwards in understanding – you quickly start to see a huge web of connection. Wiluna is an amazingly connected community.”

Chris Murphy, TAL Business Development Manager

As a result of TAL’s investment since 2019, NASCA has expanded our work into WA, expanded our program into two additional remote communities, increased our remote participant numbers by more than 170 students, delivered almost 2000 hours of programs across our partner remote communities, and increased school attendance by an average of 7% across our remote communities.


In the community

‘Integrity’ chapter background image

From the classroom to our boardroom, we commit to the development and growth of our people every step of the way.

NASCA Board member Barbie-Lee Kirby says her time in the NASCA program as a young person gave her the skills to enter the business world as a confident black woman.

Barbie-Lee Kirby, NASCA Board Member & Former NASCA Scholarship Recipient

“It is important for our young people to feel a connection to culture, a belonging to a power that is sacred, that is them. With a cultural understanding of yourself, you know who you are and with that you can go out into the world and dream big. I am proud to be a part of a program that embeds culture at its core and supports our youth on their cultural journey.

I believe in the NASCA vision and I have seen the impacts that our programs make in the community. With the program evolving and expanding, I am excited to see our young people’s accomplishments and the paths that our young people choose.

I trust First Nations young people realise that the world they see now was shaped by the strong black men and women from generations before them, and that they have the power to shape the future. A future where First Nations people have social and economic empowerment to live life on our terms, with culture at the core of our being.

Other people don’t get to pick and choose when we are valued. We matter all of the time and this is evident when we cultivate our connections with each other and our communities. We draw strength from knowing we have ancestors spanning millennia walking beside us. We have the power to achieve what we set our mind to.”

Barbie-Lee Kirby, NASCA Board Member & Former NASCA Scholarship Recipient

“I can relate to the students who I now teach, especially kids who have grown up in the country, like I did. The NASCA mentors I had when I was young were people I aspired to be. They were the role models I looked up to and who supported my growth to complete High school. I was super lucky to be part of the NASCA community back then, and am so glad I get to be a part of it now.”

Tshinta Morris, NASCA Program Lead & Former Student

Tshinta Morris, now based in our Redfern team, was a NASCA graduate from our Dubbo program.

We look forward to welcoming many more NASCA graduates into our team as we increase our impact. Harry, another NASCA graduate on our team, is keenly aware of the impact the organisation can have, and this is what drives his work.

“NASCA’s support for my development, first as a student and now as a staff member has made me a better role model for the young people that we work with, and I hope in turn that these young people become role models for the generations that follow.”

Harry Murphy, NASCA Program Lead & Former Student
Regan Craig – 2020 Male Youth of the Year Award Winner

By the Numbers

Facts and figures for 2020

‘By the Numbers’ chapter background image

In 2020, we worked with 727 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people across Australia and delivered more than 4,388 hours of support.

100% Indigenous Led

NASCA’s board is proudly 100% Indigenous led.

59% Indigenous Staff

NASCA staff consist of 59% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

5 Former Participants

NASCA features 5 former participants in the program – 3 staff and 2 board members.

Indigenous Female Led

NASCA is led by strong Indigenous female leaders, Leanne Townsend (CEO) and Skye Parsons (National Program Director).

3 States & Territories

NASCA works with urban, regional and remote communities in NSW, NT and WA.

Working with 352 young people across eight Urban academies in NSW:
  • For a total of 3,997 hours of in-class support, mentoring, assignment support, and culturally connected NASCA sessions.
  • Resulting in 19 NASCA participants graduating from Year 12, 59 transitions from Year 10 to Year 11, and a 4.46% increase in school attendance (when comparing Indigenous NASCA participants with Indigenous young people who do not participate in NASCA programs).

Working with 375 young people across 11 Remote communities in WA and NT:
  • For a total of 391 hours of workshops, physical education, after school engagement, and academic support.
  • Resulting in a 7.65% increase in attendance at school.
  • 100% of community members surveyed reported that:
    • Students were more likely to attend school when NASCA is in the community.
    • Students learn valuable life skills from the NASCA team each time we visit.
  • 100% of responders told NASCA that they were “very satisfied” with the work that we are doing in their community.

Who was supported, where?
RegionStudentsNo. of Schools
NT/WA37511 (9 NT + 2 WA)


NASCA students in NSW went to school nearly 5% more often than Indigenous students who weren’t in our programs.

GroupAttendance Rate
NASCA students84.49%
Aboriginal non-NASCA students at the same schools80.03%

When NASCA runs programs in remote communities, attendance goes up more than 7%.

GroupAttendance Rate
When NASCA attends community66.65%
Remote school average59%


COVID-19 in 2020 brought a significant reduction in our remote program trips. However, over the year we had the generous support of 39 volunteers with our remote programs.

NASCA Workshops

While COVID-19 did impact our NSW programs, we were able to maintain COVID-safe connection and programming in all of our locations.

Support TypeHours
In-class support3,502
NASCA workshops270

COVID-19, and the need to keep the communities we work in safe, meant a big reduction in our ability to work in WA and NT remotely. However, we were still able to run 10 Remote programs, providing invaluable support for the young people we work with in Wiluna, Mt Magnet, Ali Curung, Yuelamu, Haasts Bluff, Papunya, Epenarra and Canteen Creek.

Support TypeHours
In-class support139
NASCA workshops131
Physical activity48
After-school activities57
Cultural exchange16

Remote Program
100% of students surveyed in the Remote program reported that they:
  • Are more likely to come to school when NASCA is present in their community.
  • Are more interested in learning and in-classroom activities when NASCA is in their classroom.
  • Learn new skills from the NASCA team each time we visit.

Urban Program
NASCA facilitates connection to culture, increases resilience and creates safe space. Of the 230 Urban program participants surveyed:
  • 80% of students strongly agreed or agreed that NASCA helped them feel more connected to their culture.
  • 80% of students strongly agreed or agreed that NASCA helped them feel more included, resilient and connected.
  • 71% of students strongly agreed or agreed that if everyone in the NASCA community lived the NASCA values it would create a safer space for them to be in.

NASCA works with all genders

We are committed to open, respectful, inclusive spaces.

Some of Our People

Making what we do possible

‘Some of Our People’ chapter background image

“The kids love NASCA and welcomed us with open arms. Whether it was before school sport, sitting with kids at lunchtime, helping them in the classroom or running footy training after school, the energy, excitement and willingness to engage were evident, not just with the kids but with teachers and families. The memories and reflections will stay with me long after the red dust is finally emptied from my shoes and bag.”

Krystle Stylianou, NASCA volunteer

“Working with NASCA is an experience that every Australian should have. It’s a powerful and extremely rewarding journey that gives a greater understanding and respect for remote Indigenous culture. Even as an Aboriginal man, I learnt so much about the work being done and what more we can all do to help.”

Jake Duke, Channel Nine presenter & NASCA Ambassador

“NASCA builds an incredible bridge between volunteers and communities and the connection with the young people in community is real and open-hearted. They don’t care about the small stuff – they want to know the important stuff. Who’s your family? Who do you love? Where is home? Who’s your football team? And they want to share the stuff that is important to them – their language, their culture, their family, their country, their favourite player.”

Elizabeth Tucker, NASCA volunteer

“NASCA’s work with remote communities is a valuable commodity. Their programs provide exposure to role models and opportunities that our students may not otherwise have the chance to discover. After years of positive experiences, NASCA has earned their trust and our students cherish their chances to engage with them.”

Michael Ryan, Laramba School Principal

“This is the next generation – proud Aboriginal young people who have the strength of their ancestors behind them as they begin to build their own futures.”

Skye Parsons, NASCA Program Director

Our Board

Supportive and Experienced

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NASCA is 100% Aboriginal governed. Our Directors are committed advocates for our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. As well as extensive experience and expertise, they bring cultural knowledge to provide the best support for our young people.

Mark Heiss

Mark is a Wiradjuri man, born and raised on Gadigal land in Sydney. Chair of the NASCA Board, he is an advocate for Indigenous young people reaching their potential and taking their place in the world. Mark worked in education for almost two decades, with a special focus on physical activity and leadership, and currently is head of scholarships at the GO Foundation. Mark volunteered at NASCA for many years before taking on his NASCA directorship.

Kristal Kinsela

Kristal is a descendant of the Jawoyn and Wiradjuri nations. She is a non-executive director of Jaramer Legal and of Uniting NSW/ACT and provides consultancy services through Kristal Kinsela Consulting. Kristal is passionate about creating lasting pathways and growing the capabilities of Indigenous businesses and individuals. Serially awarded for her contribution to Indigenous communities across Australia, in 2019 she was recognised in the Financial Review’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ list.

Barbie-Lee Kirby

Barbie-Lee is a Ngiyambaa, Wailwan, Baakindji-Maraura, Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay woman from Brewarrina, NSW. She was the first Indigenous candidate to complete the Finance Graduate program at Qantas, where she became manager of Corporate Governance. Currently she is Citizenship Executive at Herbert Smith Freehills. Having studied business, accounting and law, Barbie-Lee is moving into the entrepreneurial space to support First Nations start-ups. Barbie-Lee is a former NASCA Scholarship recipient.

Lachlan McDaniel

Lachlan belongs to the Kilari Clan of the Wiradjuri Nation. He works in the not-for-profit and corporate sectors to improve organisations’ engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Pursuing his passion for empowering Indigenous people through self-determination, Lachlan has studied First Nations history, law, politics and governance. His experience extends to political campaigning. He is currently undertaking his PhD, researching Wiradjuri cultural revitalisation.

Chloe Wighton

Chloe is a Wiradjuri (Galari) woman from Gilgandra, NSW. Currently the senior cultural impact adviser at SBS, she has worked on the campaign for constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and was employed in Indigenous strategy at the University of Sydney. Chloe is invested in the continuation of Wiradjuri culture, particularly the preservation of language. Chloe is a proud graduate of NASCA’s Academy Program, Dubbo region.

Appreciation, Thanks

to our community

‘Appreciation, Thanks’ chapter background image

Big love to our Aunties, Uncles, community leaders, teachers and ambassadors. You are superstars. Special thanks again to our young people, who inspire us every day. You are our rockstars.

Above all, NASCA is grateful to the young people we walk with. We extend our sincere thanks to them.

We also extend thanks to our many community partners, donors, volunteers and supporters who believe in our vision for a proud, prosperous and healthy Australia, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people thrive. We also acknowledge with deep thanks the important work and commitment of our corporate partners.

Major Partners

Inner Circle Partners

  • Anna Baker
  • Accounting for Good
  • National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
  • Risk Advisory Services
  • Social Ventures Australia
Workplace Giving Programs
  • AON Foundation
  • DLA Piper
  • Equinix
  • Lendlease
  • Scentre Group
  • TAL Insurance
  • VIVA Energy
SupportersWorkplace Giving Programs
  • Anna Baker
  • Accounting for Good
  • National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
  • Risk Advisory Services
  • Social Ventures Australia
  • AON Foundation
  • DLA Piper
  • Equinix
  • Lendlease
  • Scentre Group
  • TAL Insurance
  • VIVA Energy

The Future

Is First Nations

‘The Future’ chapter background image

With a fresh approach, 2020 marked the first year of NASCA’s new 10-year strategic plan. We have already made significant gains for 2021…

In big news, NASCA will open 13 new Academies across NSW to support more than 800 First Nations young women. We will do this thanks to $7.9 million grant funding over three years from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

In Term 1, 2021, we will add a new Academy in south-west Sydney to support all genders at Thomas Reddall High School. We will do this thanks to the continuing support of our funders and our community and the success of our amazing Academy students. We have new and ongoing major partnerships with NSW Department of Education, TAL, Viva Energy, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, and University of Sydney.

This means that we will go from working with 19 communities in 2020 to 33 communities in 2021 – an incredible achievement, and beyond what we could have hoped for at the start of the year.

As well, we will partner with the University of Sydney in July to host a National First Nations Youth Conference for NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC’s theme for 2021 is ‘Heal Country’.

Looking ahead – just like our young people! – NASCA’s future is bright. While we will be bigger, we will remain true to our values and steadfast in achieving our ultimate goal: empowering First Nations young people to thrive.

Vanessa Dillon – 2020 NASCA NAIDOC Excellence Award Winner

Financial Report

2020 was another year of revenue growth for NASCA.

Our strong partnerships with community, corporate, and government organisations led to significant funding development, in turn powering our impact. Volunteers and individual donors also played key roles in our growth.

Linked below is our yearly external audit demonstrating, again, that we continue to manage our finances in an effective and robust way. This year we welcomed financial service partners Accounting for Good to the NASCA Team. Our close collaboration with Accounting for Good has taken our financial management standards to an even higher level. We look forward to continuing to practice the highest level of financial administration and management.