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Indigenous students shine at awards night

ALMOST 200 people turned out for the Bundaberg & District State High Schools Indigenous Celebration held at Brothers Sports Club on Monday 28 October.

It was an evening to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from the region’s five State High Schools, with the Student of the Year and Best Attendance awards sponsored by Aboriginal community-controlled organisation IWC.

Winners of the overall Best Student Award 2019 were Coen Johnson (Kepnock SHS), Dustin Budda-Deen (Bundaberg SHS), Amy Thompson (North Bundaberg SHS) and Lachlan George (Isis District SHS).

The overall Outstanding Attendance Award went to Jamaya Bentley (Kepnock SHS).

Amy Thompson said it was the first time she had been involved in an event that brought the five schools together to recognise Indigenous students.

“I feel a bit overexcited…my last year at school has been amazing.”

Lachlan George said he was proud to see Indigenous culture incorporated into the graduation night and looked forward to pursuing an apprenticeship in 2020.

“Culture wasn’t always as much of a thing and it’s good to see it come to be more recognised.

“I feel a bit more pride in the culture, a bit more respect and more knowledge of what’s involved with it all”

Jamaya Bentley, Outstanding Attendance Award winner, said the only time she missed school was for netball, and was now looking forward to attending TAFE in 2020.

“Having the support of teachers and friends around you – they have your back,” she said.

“It’s amazing how many people support our culture.”

The event was organised by Kepnock State High School Community Education Counsellor Craig Currie and Teacher (Indigenous Support) Leigh Currie. The event included students and their families, kin and friends.

IWC CEO Ara Harathunian said the event was an important one for the region because it recognised the academic achievements, and the potential, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

“Our schools, and our communities, are working hard to prepare our Indigenous youth for the world, and these awards are putting an emphasis on getting a good education and building personal capacity to follow through on commitments,” he said.

“As the major employer of Indigenous peoples in our regions, and as part of our commitment to Reconciliation in Action, IWC believes that that the youth of this generation have a responsibility to achieve because they have opportunities that their parents and grandparents could never have dreamed of.

“This generation of First Nation youth have the chance to turn dreams into reality. That is why these awards have the support of IWC.”

He added: “We all want the best for our youth, for our communities, and these awards and this event shines a light on their abilities to succeed in today’s 21st-century environment. These students are our future leaders, our future hopes, our future strength as a community. They can build our communities’ resilience, hopes, dreams and purpose.”

IWC Community Support Officer Jenny Springham presented the IWC-sponsored awards to the students, telling them: “Congratulations, and well done on this important step forward in your life. This is something special that you have achieved through your own strength and ability.”

The awards have run since 2006, and this year included a traditional Welcome to Country from Aunty Roslyn Long and Aunty Elizabeth Marnock.