On 1 July, in the lead-up to NAIDOC Week 2016, Scarlet became Maitland Local Aboriginal Student of the Year, an award which recognises emerging leaders, rewards students’ commitment to their local communities and connects students to community leaders and role models. Scarlet was one of five students across the Maitland region nominated for this award.
Award creator and presenter, Member for Maitland, Jenny Aitcheson MP, commended Scarlet on her outstanding commitment to her studies and community, describing Scarlet as a very “diligent and articulate student who provides strong leadership for the Aboriginal community”.
Nominated by St Joseph’s Aboriginal Education Teacher, Zara Francisco, and Principal, Paul Greaves, Scarlet’s displays of leadership and community commitment made her a worthy nominee.
“Scarlet is the President of St Joseph’s Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) and has organised or been involved in many events and projects during her time at St Joseph’s,” says Ms Francisco.
“She assists and supports her peers and Aboriginal community in a variety of ways, including ensuring cultural inclusivity at all times, as well as balancing her own studies and sporting commitments.”
St Joseph’s Principal, Paul Greaves, also expressed the privilege he felt to see Scarlet receive this award and to see her efforts affirmed at a broader community level.
“Supported by Scarlet’s leadership, there have been significant school-wide initiatives which have promoted Aboriginal culture and identity, with Aboriginal students at St Joseph’s now having an effective voice,” said Mr Greaves.
“I am sure that through Scarlet’s example, students at St Joseph’s will be challenged to get involved in school life and share in leadership that makes a difference.”
Following this local award, Scarlet was one of 20 NSW students selected to attend the Emerging Leaders Forum in August at Parliament House in Sydney. Of the 70 students awarded local Aboriginal Student of the Year across NSW, only the top 20 are invited to attend the Forum.
“I was greeted at the Forum by the Honourable Leslie Williams MP, and later in the day I was lucky enough to meet with Premier Mike Baird who approached me to say that he believed in me and my leadership potential,” said Scarlet.
The Forum, designed to give student leaders the opportunity to meet with Aboriginal student, business and government leaders and acquire new skills and knowledge, featured a panel discussion and presentations from inspiring leaders and role models including Teela Reid, the Hon Ben Franklin MLC, George Rose and Kirstie Parker who spoke of their background, challenges they have faced and the people they have become. The day also included a tour of the Aboriginal artefacts at the Australian Museum and Parliament House and also featured Legislative Assembly question time.
Scarlet’s favourite part of the Forum was the final activity where students were given the opportunity to speak one-on-one with numerous leaders and indigenous workers.
“These motivational leaders shared their wealth of knowledge, tips and experiences, as well the highs and lows they were faced with when becoming who they are today,” said Scarlet.
“One of the speakers in particular, Mi-kaisha, was very supportive towards my goals and plans for the future.
“The leaders we spoke to were all positive role models that I know many young people look up to and I hope one day I can follow in their footsteps.”
Winning local Aboriginal Student of the Year and attending the Emerging Leaders Forum are two experiences that have shaped Scarlet’s life and given her new skills to help reach her goals.
“From these experiences, I am going to ensure that all members of St Joseph’s Jnr AECG are fully supported in what they have planned for the future,” said Scarlet.
“I will ensure that all students might have the confidence and knowledge to stand up for their beliefs and speak out when they see an issue waiting to be raised.”