Mountains by Stephanie Williams

A student’s journey at Worawa College.

Good Morning everyone, honoured guests, Elders, ladies and gentlemen.

I’d first like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to the Wurundjeri people.

My name is Stephanie Juanita Mabadoor Williams I am a proud, passionate young lady seen as a leader in my community I believe in loving God and having respect for others and for my culture. I also believe in education as it’s the key to open the doors I want to go through.

My tribes are Gulumoerrgin and Muran, and my languages are Larrakia and Llwaidja. I am from Darwin and West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

I have been attending Worawa College for four years now since I was twelve.

During my time at Worawa I’ve had many blessings and opportunities as well as making my friends forever – my sisters.

In my first year at Worawa, I wasn’t sure what I would make of my time at the college or even if it was right for me. I was eleven turning twelve. Can you imagine leaving home at a young age!

I was nervous, although I was keen too. It was a new adventure on the other side of the country!

I had to see what this adventure would bring, but I was so scared because for the first time this adventure was on my own.

I remember looking out to the beautiful big Mountains and feeling so small. I went behind a building and sat on a stump and asked myself “Is this right?” I looked in the mountains where I was sitting and I saw a ditch in the mountain. I imagined it’s like I’m about to take a huge big leap over that ditch.

Now it came to me that to take this leap is risky – what if I fall?

I’m leaving everything I know, I’m leaving home.

I said, “God show me if it’s right.” I looked closely at the mountain, my eyes began to adjust, my vision became clear – the ditch in the mountain was no longer a ditch but a road.

I had seen a car travelling up the mountain. I thought well it looks like I better see where this road, this new path, takes me to.

This path has taken me to amazing places. In my first year, I had been selected with other students to attend the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in Hawaii. I was able to meet First Nation People from around the world. There were so many things that were great about the trip: the singing and dancing, the beaches and the culture.

I have been on student exchanges and attended many conferences and performed or spoken.

I had the opportunity to make my Debut at last year’s Debutante Dreaming. We were able to socialize with a new group of friends that we would never have usually met and learned dances.

We stood and were proud of our Cultures and achievements. I’ve acted in school plays such as at the Malthouse Theatre. Worawa allowed me to explore my talents such as sport: I play netball, basketball, football, touch rugby. I have a lot of interest in AFL. I was able to be a part of the first Worawa Lady Eaglehawks AFL team and have been able to enjoy other experiences through Worawa in the broader community. I have been the Victorian Indigenous captain for two consecutive years.

I learnt a lot about myself and my character at Worawa. I have learnt about good leadership and listening skills, and to work as one in our community. I was the captain of the school. I am extremely passionate and push myself to all my abilities in my sporting life as well as at school.

I’m an MVP winner in the whole competition in the national Indigenous Kick-Start AFL. I have proudly been in Australia’s first 2017 indigenous and multicultural all-stars team at a national level and now two years in the Woomeras team. I have represented the Northern Territory in the u18s NAB cup and have recently played for the Yarra Ranges Vline Rep team in Gippsland.

I always thank God for all these achievements. I’d like to get drafted one day in the women’s AFL.

As well as sport, my future dreams and aspirations are to complete my schooling in year 12 and further my education at university and study exercise science and health, because with these I could make a good change in my community and be the bridge that can help my people improve health and better it for future generations as well as knowing the language, both indigenous and English to help translate for my old people and possibly become a teacher.

This year at Worawa I was able to learn about sports medicine and get a certificate and also enjoy work experience at Badger Creek Primary School, doing work like teachers’ aide and experiencing life as a teacher as well as the experience of coaching young primary kids in athletics and getting certified as a children’s coach.

Back to when I first started off at Worawa: I wasn’t sure – I felt small around these mountains, the country was different to what I’m used to. I’m a saltwater girl and there was no sea around but now I’m sure, I’m certain, and I feel as though I can conquer all mountains and life’s hurdles.

The message I’d like to send to the younger girls and students is never to be afraid to take a jump of faith into the unknown; always have love; be courageous. If you make a mistake remember my sisters, pick yourself up and try to find your path! Never let your struggles define you or let any negativity around shape you or mistakes break you – be leaders for our indigenous youth. You are all arangkarud arradbi – strong Aboriginal people; strong in the mind, spirit and most of all strong in the heart.

Be leaders for Our People and climb every mountain because difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations such as this.

– Mountains, by Student Representative Speaker, Stephanie Williams. 2017.