Earlier this year I was very lucky to have my work as a volunteer and advocate for young people and our regional community recognised by being the recipient of both the ‘Berri Barmera Young Citizen of the Year’ and the ‘2011 South Australian Young Citizen of the Year’ awards.
Here’s a snap from Governement house where I was presented the award by South Australian Governor Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, pictured on the far left, in the middle you can see David Crotti who is the general manager of the Awards major sponsor San Remo and I’m obviously on the right
I was asked to make a small speech at both presentations (one @ Government House and one @ the Australia Day presentations on the Bonney Lakefront in Barmera). Since then I’ve had a number of people ask to read my speech so I’m publishing it here (it was also published by the Murray Pioneer February 8th 2011)
I’ve edited together the 2 speeches rather than publishing them both here as they were quite similar and it’s really the essence of the thing I assume people are interested in rather than the fine details!!
Firstly I’d like to acknowledge the traditional spiritual custodians of the land we meet on today and pay my respects to our Elders both past and present. I would also like to acknowledge that although today is a day of celebration for many, for many others and in particular our indigenous family today also marks ‘Survivor Day’. And here I’ll borrow some words from Aunty Josie. Aunty Josie is a respected Elder and gave the welcome to country at Government House last night, she said ‘We should not live in the past, nor hold onto it too tightly but we should never forget it’.
Welcome also to Mayor Peter Hunt, Council Representatives, invited guests and to you – all of you who make up this community. Each of you contributes in some way to making this community what it is and every contribution is valuable – whether you give volunteer time to an organisation, or work a full time job, take care of your parents, children or others all of these contributions give to the whole and make our community resilient and precious. I am not self less in being able to offer my time as a volunteer, instead I am privileged and lucky to be able to do so.
Each of us in life are presented with choices, the mundane everyday choices and the large life changing choices. I’ve chosen many roads in my life that haven’t been easy and have met with great disapproval and judgement and yet I wouldn’t be standing here if not for the pattern of those choices.
I chose to leave home when I was only 15, not due to any problematic family dynamic but because I sought to have control over my life and in the face of deeply difficult high school experiences that was the road through that I saw. I didn’t love myself enough or see the value in myself to think that I deserved better or even that I could ask for better. I never thought then that I had any value to myself or anyone else, I didn’t expect to ever finish school, I thought I was dumb, ugly and useless.
What saved me? It wasn’t just one thing, it was many, the foundation of love and respect my parents had given me, the deep pride and stubbornness I carried around despite all my self doubt and the great turning point of finding myself pregnant at 17 and knowing that I loved my child too much to let him grow up in a toxic environment.
I loved him enough to demand a better life for both of us and through that he saved me. I’ve since built a solid reputation as an emerging writer, performer, director and community artist, I’m involved in many levels of community building as a volunteer, parent and paid employee, I sit on multiple community boards and committees and am completing an external double tertiary degree in teaching and arts which I commenced in 2008 and have maintained a distinction average. I give 90% of my time in-kind, unpaid to support and build my community in any way that I can. And I’ve been blessed to find a life partner who sees, accepts, respects and loves me.
There are so many people who in both small and big ways who have enabled me to be on this path and to finally love myself. But there are a few who deserve special mention.
To everyone who has been my friend, mentor or supporter & a part of my family – I couldn’t do what I do without you, each of you have left your mark on who I am and how I see the world.
To my partner Nic, you came into our lives 3 years and became part of an instant family – that took a lot of courage, thankyou for being brave. Thankyou for allowing me to see myself through your eyes, I still don’t quite believe what I see what I’m starting to. Thankyou for all the ways you enable me by supporting me physically, emotionally, mentally and financially – I just could not do what I do in the way I do it without you.
I’d like to also say thankyou to my entire family, especially my nana and granddad & my brothers but especially to my parents, who gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever and will ever give me. The freedom to chose. Even when my choices were breaking their hearts my parents showed the deepest courage and respect for me by allowing me to chose my own path and by trusting me to deal with the consequences of those choices. This was difficult for all of us but it was a great gift, one of the greatest. You are both beautiful people and have always lived with integrity and with generosity and joy. You lead by example and I am so proud to be your child. You taught me that we all have a responsibility to care for others, in our families, our communities and in the wider circles of society. You taught me that there is no shame in hard or mundane work and that everything we give creates a legacy to pass on. I wouldn’t be who I am without you.
And lastly to my son Zacharie, you make me everyday want to be a better person, you inspire and motivate me to live life with deep joy, integrity and authenticity. You allow me to see the world in ways that give me hope for a brighter future – you make all the tears, sorrow, pain and struggles worth it.
I am privileged to serve. Thankyou.