Maxine Thomas, Origin’s Stakeholder Liaison in Roma, south-west Queensland, is using her 20 years’ teaching experience to give children in remote communities access to kindergarten.
For Maxine, giving back to her community has always been a priority, “It is important for me to be able to combine my role at Origin with my work in the community – to maintain close ties with schools and have my work with landholders and community overlap in a meaningful way.”
Maxine was contacted by Injune Early Learning Centre after they could not find qualified teachers to support the declining number of students in their care. Injune is about 90 kilometres north of Roma and without a qualified teacher, the children of Injune would have no access to kindergarten or formal early learning to prepare for school.
“When Injune Early Learning Centre reached out to me, I wanted to find a way to contribute through the Origin Energy Foundation, which is primarily focused on changing lives through education. A child’s brain develops more in the first five years of their life than at any other time – I just couldn’t see a remote service as important as this face such a struggle.” Maxine said.
The Origin Energy Foundation’s skilled volunteering program encourages employees to go beyond traditional volunteering and donate their time and professional skills to help partners and the community.
As part of her working hours at Origin, Maxine develops and uploads a qualified and approved, tailored early learning program onto an online platform every two weeks. Maxine holds monthly teleconferences with the centre’s qualified childcare staff to help prepare resources and travels to Injune Early Learning Centre on a regular basis to oversee the program’s implementation, interact with the children and meet parents.
“The Origin Energy Foundation has been extremely supportive of my work to help Injune Early Learning Centre and the children of Injune. We are supporting rural communities and this is a really tangible way to do it. No glitz and glamour, we’re delivering a formal education program to little Australians who otherwise wouldn’t have access. And we’re making sure it’s a really excellent program for them,” said Maxine.
Following the experience with Injune, Maxine has also been able to support other local kindergartens during the COVID-19 restrictions. Maxine has helped kindergartens use the platform to share programs and simplify program content for parents teaching at home.