A decade of achievements

ONE of Australia's leading Indigenous service providers, Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation Limited (better known as MPREC) celebrates its 10th birthday this month.

The corporation, which began operations in 2003 after the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), has emerged to become a lead agency within its sphere of influence across the nation.

From humble beginnings with meagre resources, the then-newly- appointed chief executive officer Janelle Whitehead systematically developed the organisation to steer it along a pathway of continual growth, achieving its goal - to deliver best practice, relevant services to Indigenous communities in far west NSW - the Murdi Paaki region.

"At the start, I literally operated the business from the boot of my car," Ms Whitehead said.

"Then we developed from a one-man band into a staff of two, then three; we found a home in a little office, Kookaburra Cellars in Coonamble, where we quickly ran out of space, then moved into a building adjacent to the Coonamble Post Office before our final Coonamble home - the previous Coonamble Shire RTA building.

"The organisation moved away from its town of origin in 2006 and ultimately to its present headquarters in Dubbo, primarily driven by the need to increase the ability of the many government departments located there to have regular, easy access.

"We deliver many community-based programs directly, while we auspice several more," Ms Whitehead said.

"We were recently appointed the contract to deliver the federal government's flagship program Regional Jobs and Communities (RJCP) in the two NSW locations - far west and upper Darling; Wilcannia and Bourke regions.

"This five-year program is focussed on community empowerment and capacity development, and is a whole of community approach.

"While in its infancy and not without challenge, RJCP has the potential to bring lasting, relevant and effective benefits to everyone in the two regions."

Ms Whitehead said another thrust critical to communities was a focus on youth.

"We have, until recently, actively operated youth programs and youth centres in five communities,"?she said.

" The response, not only from the high numbers of attendees but from all sectors of the communities, has been overwhelming. In fact, this program alone can be attributed to a reduction in truancy, providing a safe place and generally contributing to community's most important asset - their youth."

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