The Cathy Freeman Foundation currently partners with four remote Indigenous communities: Galiwin'ku and Wurrumiyanga in the Northern Territory, and Palm Island and Woorabinda in Queensland.


When the Cathy Freeman Foundation aligns with schools and community leaders, it sends a strong message to a child that education matters. The Foundation helps leverage strengths of all parties and creates harmony for the shared goal, being the improved education and well-being of the children.

A key component of the success of Cathy Freeman Foundation programs in these communities is the holistic approach the Foundation takes in creating positive education outcomes. Integral to this approach is employing local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to run our programs in community. 

The process involved in establishing community partnerships is lengthy and complex. In essence the shared criteria, among community partners involves:

  • Based in a remote discrete Indigenous community

  • Welcoming support from the community and school leaders

  • Population of 1,000 plus

  • Established primary and secondary schools

  • No duplication of services

  • Long term commitment to the delivery of programs.

Community partnerships are core to the work of the Cathy Freeman Foundation.
The support from the local community and school leadership is what enables the Foundation to deliver its programs and enables us to make a difference.

Cathy Freeman’s mother and grandparents were born on this small, remote tropical island, and it felt like a natural place for Cathy Freeman to establish the Foundation in 2007.


Palm Island, also known as Great Palm Island, or by the Aboriginal name Bwgcolman, is a tropical island paradise situated 65 kilometres north west or a 15 minute plane ride from Townsville in far North Queensland. It is the main island of the Greater Palm group and consists of small bays, sandy beaches and steep forested mountains rising to more than 500 metres.


The traditional owners of Palm Island are the Manbarra people. In 1914, the Queensland Government seized control of the community.  During the next 20 years, more than 1600 people from over 40 different tribes throughout Queensland were sent to the island and were banned from speaking their traditional language and undertaking traditional practices.


In 1985, the Queensland government finally passed jurisdiction of the island to the Palm Island Community Council, giving residents greater autonomy in administering the Island. Today, Palm Island is one of Australia’s largest remote Indigenous communities, with around 3800 residents, and local governance is via the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council. Palm Island brings together 40 different tribes who call themselves the Bwgcolman people, meaning “many tribes”, “under the sun”, or simply “Palm Island”.

Approximately 3,800


Participating students



Average School attendance
73% (according to Australian Bureau of Statistics)


School Partners
Bwgcolman Community School (Pre-prep – Year 12)
St Michael’s Catholic School (Pre Prep – Year 7)


The community of Wurrumiyanga is located on Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory. It is situated 80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Arafura Sea.

The Tiwi people have inhabited Bathurst and Melville Islands for more than 40,000 years and belong to the wider Tiwi Island clans of which there are eight. They speak Tiwi as their first language, however students study in English.


Wurrumiyanga is the largest community in the Tiwi Islands with a population of approximately 1500. Of this number, 33 per cent of the Tiwi population are aged between five and 19 years.

Approximately 1,500


Participating students



Average School attendance
62% (according to Australian Bureau of Statistics)


School Partners

Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic Primary School
Xavier Catholic College


Approximately 2,000


Participating students



Average School attendance
50% (according to Australian Bureau of Statistics)


School Partners

Shepherdson College


Elcho Island is located at the southern end of the Wessel Islands group located in the East Arnhem Region of the Northern Territory. The island’s largest community is the settlement of Galiwin’ku, which is the largest Aboriginal community in north east Arnhem Land, and the second largest Aboriginal community (in terms of concentrated population) in the Northern Territory.


The population of Galiwin’ku and its surrounds in 2011 was approximately 2,200. In 2011, 44 per cent of Galiwin’ku’s population was younger than 20 years of age. There are a large number of tribal groups, with up to 15 different languages being used in the community


Galiwin’ku is home to the Yolngu people. Yolngu means ‘Aboriginal person’ in the languages of northern Arnhem Land. Yolngu is also the name given to a group of clans who live in Galiwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, Milingimbi, Ramingining and Yirrkala and speak a dialect of one of a number of closely related languages. The common language across the Arnhem Region is Djambarrpuyngu.  Together these Yolngu clans formed a social system of religious organisation that differs from neighbouring systems. Yolngu people identify themselves first by their family group, then by their clan and language, and finally by their family’s country.


Woorabinda is located in Central Queensland, 170 kilometres or a two hour drive south west of Rockhampton. Woorabinda means ‘kangaroo sit down’. Woorabinda is situated on the traditional lands of the Wadja Wadja and Gungulu Aboriginal people and covers 391 square kilometres.

Woorabinda was first established in 1927 as a replacement for the Aboriginal camp at Taroom. Indigenous people from around 52 clans across Queensland were forcibly placed in the camp.

There is a much higher proportion of people under the age of 18 in Woorabinda than in the wider non-Indigenous community, as 48 per cent of the population is under 20.

Cathy Freeman’s father was born in Woorabinda, which made it a natural selection for a community partner.

Approximately 1,000


Participating students



Average School attendance
62% (according to Australian Bureau of Statistics)


School Partners

Woorabinda Primary School
Wadja Wadja High School

Primary Partners

For enquiries and requests specifically relating to Cathy Freeman, please e-mail


Please note that due to the large number of requests, we are unable to guarantee that a response will be provided to all queries. We apologise in advance.

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The Cathy Freeman Foundation acknowledges and pays our respects to the past, present and emerging traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are advised that this website may contain images and voices of people who have died.




ABN: 59 623 241 565

Cathy Freeman Foundation is endorsed under the ATO provision of item 1