The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) is a social enterprise that builds capability and creates life-changing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to positively impact wellbeing. Developed by the ILSC on the former Redfern Public School site, the land and historic buildings were purchased from the NSW Government in 2006 with the newly developed centre opening in 2010. The NCIE site encompasses a fitness and aquatics centre, including an outdoor sports field, basketball stadium, indoor and outdoor training areas, and an undercover pool. There are also accommodation and conferencing facilities, and corporate and tenant offices. NCIE services are detailed below.
The NCIE site is a hub for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations: National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA), Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation, Inner Sydney Empowered Communities (ISEC) and Redfern Youth Connect (RYC), whose own activities from the NCIE site support thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Yamanah Investments Pty Ltd, a newly created ILSC subsidiary, became a tenant in January 2020, and SEDA Sporting College, concluded their four-year tenancy with NCIE in August 2019.
The NCIE delivers six discrete yet interrelated services from the NCIE site:
- Fitness and Aquatics – includes café and retail
- Hospitality – includes conference, accommodation, and on-site and off-site catering
- Job Ready – a training-to-employment program
- TATU – Talking About Tobacco Use, part of the national Tackling Indigenous Smoking program
- IDX – National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, in partnership with Telstra
- Blak Impact – a First Nations-led design, evaluation, readiness building and systems change service.
Each service is driven by NCIE’s goal of delivering long-term improvements to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing. NCIE Corporate provides internal support in finance, human resources, Work Health and Safety, ICT, communications and marketing, governance and risk management. Through these operations, NCIE supports the ILSC to achieve strategic land management outcomes through its management of the Redfern site.
The NCIE is a not-for-profit social enterprise. In 2019–20, its earnings (before grant funding from the ILSC) were $5.2 million in total, including revenues from its four businesses (Fitness and Aquatics, Hospitality, Job Ready and Blak Impact) and grants and sponsorships from third parties to run programs.
NCIE generated a loss of $0.6 million in 2019–20; however, before financial support from the ILSC of $4.9 million, the result was a deficit of $4.3 million (including concessional lease contribution of $2.0 million).
NCIE is in its last year of the Strategic Plan 2018– 20, which focused on optimising and developing NCIE as a high-performing organisation for social impact, financial viability, internal culture and partnerships.
Engagement and social impact
Strong and effective partnerships with Indigenous people, organisations and the local community underpin all NCIE activities. Here are some of the 2019–20 highlights:
- NCIE Job Ready mentored and assisted 33 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander participants into training or employment
- NCIE Hospitality hosted 6,043 conference guests from the community, corporate and government spheres with key delegations including the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, Transport NSW, Aboriginal Community Housing, ABC Television and the University of Technology Sydney
- NCIE Accommodation facilities hosted 1,251 guests across 57 school, university, sporting and other groups, with 61 per cent identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
- NCIE Catering delivered to 15,121 people in 518 orders, including Transport NSW, City of Sydney, Cancer Institute and the UNSW Business School
- NCIE Retail and Café supported 49 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and businesses
- NCIE Fitness and Aquatics – 19 per cent of 2008 members identify as Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander; the pool was utilised by seven schools hosting 1,303 students for swimming lessons
- The Homework Centre, delivered in collaboration with local community organisation Redfern Youth Connect, was attended 1,517 times, assisting an average of 169 year 8-12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth with time management and tutoring
- IDX – 284 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 51 community focused organisations, and 15 regional and remote communities across Australia attended workshops to foster digital learning and development.
On-site events and visitors
2020 marked 10 years since NCIE opened its doors to the public.
While COVID-19 impacted on planned on-site celebrations (a themed Blak Markets and NAIDOC@NCIE), the NCIE marked the milestone with:
- 10-year anniversary t-shirts and enamel mugs displaying artwork by Gomeroi/Gamillaraay artist Dennis Golding which officially launched at Yabun in January
- Interviews with community members who shared what NCIE has meant to them since it opened, including one with journalist, author and academic, Stan Grant, which was shared across all NCIE’s social media channels in June.
Other Highlights for 2019-20 included:
- Inner City NAIDOC Family and Sports Day– in its 10th year on NCIE grounds, the July event was organised in collaboration with a community committee and attracted more than 4,000 people for a day of cultural events and performances, activities and food stalls
- Twilight Markets – held in partnership with Blak Markets on NCIE grounds, the November market celebrated and showcased Indigenous businesses from around Australia, attracting 1,200 people to enjoy art and food stalls, music, and cultural performances
- The Heart of Social Enterprise Discussion Panel – an October event marking Indigenous Business Month; four Indigenous social entrepreneurs talked about their business journey and how they contribute to community
- Clean Slate Without Prejudice and Never Going Back – Tribal Warrior’s boxing, fitness and mentoring program attracts broad community attendance three mornings a week, each session regularly attracting up to 100 participants
- Biggest Bootcamp for the Bushfires – this Tribal Warrior January event saw 200 fitness and boxing class participants raise funds for the NCIE Wildlife, Information, Rescue and Education Service for wildlife affected by the unprecedented 2019–20 NSW bushfires.
2019–20 continued recent years of consolidation and growth while building on processes and procedures for more efficient and effective NCIE operations. The final year of the NCIE Strategic Plan 2018–2020 focused on optimising and developing NCIE as a high-performing organisation for social impact, financial viability, internal culture and partnerships.
The NCIE continues to work to establish sustainable operating models to ensure it continues generating benefits to the Indigenous community, locally and nationally, and supporting the ILSC’s mandate of divestment.
The NCIE was significantly impacted by the global outbreak of COVID-19. The site was closed temporarily from 18 March to 30 June 2020 impacting all services; 63 per cent of the workforce was not able to work due to government restrictions.
The NCIE’s achievements and its contribution towards ILSC Key Performance Indicators in 2019–20 was directly impacted by the pandemic. This is evident in the results compared to the previous year.
Guided by the NCIE Operation and Workforce Plan to 30 September 2020, the NCIE will continue to operate pivoted services and act in accordance with public health orders during 2020–21.
As one of the ILSC’s most valuable landholdings, the ILSC’s core mandate of divestment of improved land will require careful and considered due diligence, planning and community engagement. The ILSC will focus on this during the 2020–21 period, while its subsidiary, NCIE, continues to focus on transforming its operations to a sustainable economic business model to support future divestment.