Atherton State High School on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland (my old high school) is currently celebrating their 2011 NAIDOC week this week and I was honoured to be asked as a guest speaker at their Naidoc Week school parade yesterday... This is the speech I delivered... (please note, it is type out as a speech so please forgive the writing style) LOL
Mr Whybird, Distinguished guests, Teachers and students...
I would first like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of this country, and thank Aunty Louis for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Carly Wallace... I am a proud Dulguburra Yidinji woman from The Atherton Tablelands, born in Cairns and grew up in Yungaburra, and I’m a former student of Atherton State High School.
First and foremost, HAPPY NAIDOC Week to you all. The theme for this year’s NAIDOC week is ‘Change: The next step is ours’... So how does this relate to me?
As I said earlier, I was a student here at Atherton High from years 8 to 12 and graduated in 2002 as one of about 4 Indigenous students in my year to do so..... If I have to be honest, school wasn’t my thing... I grew up in a single parent household, I never really got good grades, I didn’t understand the work and didn’t cope well with study. I didn’t go for my OP Score, I had no desire to go to University and had no idea of what I wanted to do for a job or career after school. School to me was basically just for socialising; that was until a friend asked me in Year 12, if I would help her commentate for sports day. This had never been done before so I thought, why not... A tent on the oval with my mate and I in it, a stereo and a set of microphones, started what was to be my career so far.
That single day of mucking around and talking dribble to the whoever was bored in the grandstand listening, sparked something in my brain and gave me a crazy idea that ‘Hey, maybe I could get PAID to talk dribble for a living’, and with that, I started to pursue a career in Media, in particular, Radio.
So with just a few months left to go of year 12, I made a trip down to James Cook University, who at the time were doing testing for their batchelor of communications course to begin in 2003. I sat for my tests and came back to the Tablelands with the news that I would be going to Uni in just a few months. As it turned out, I ended up deferring the course and chose to do a 1 year Humanities tertiary Access course instead at JCU in Townsville.
After completing the year long course, I decided to take a year off to ‘find work’ in 2004. Living on welfare, as a job searcher with no experience besides hospitality, I began to be depressed, and my dreams of radio were becoming beyond my reach.
At the end of 2004, I decided to volunteer at the Indigenous Radio station, Radio 4k1g in Townsville. I had no on air experience, all I had was the desire to make it happen, and make it happen I did. The staff had faith in me; I was 19 year old at the time and they decided to put me on air for 1 hour a week. That one hour lead to casual fill in work; filling in for nearly every show on the station when the announcers were away, as well as my own music request show. I volunteered for 2.5 years and completed my Certificate 3 and 4 in Radio Broadcasting from Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory externally in the meantime. In 2007 and after a few years of volunteering, I landed the position as Fulltime Breakfast announcer at the station at the age of 22.
In 2009, my final year at the station, I was honoured to be nominated for a Deadly Award for ‘Radio Broadcaster of the Year’ at the Sydney Opera House... Although I didn’t win, it was a humbling experience to be recognised by my people with the nomination.
After 2.5 years of 4am wake ups and speaking to an audience that stretched beyond Townsville, up in to the cape, Gulf Regions and the Torres Straits, I found it was time for a change and resigned from my position in 2009. Unsure of my next step, I was lucky enough to get a call from the top media school in the country, ‘The Australian Film Television and Radio School’, otherwise known as AFTRS in Sydney, informing me that I had been 1 out of 10 people selected in the country to undertake my Graduate Diploma of Radio at the prestigious school in 2010.
From living in North Queensland my whole life, to living in Sydney by myself with no friends or family, living on a student budget and living out of an Aboriginal hostel all year, it was one of the most challenging paths I have ever had to take in life. After 9 intense months of study, I graduated in November last year in front of 500 people, as the First Indigenous Radio student in the school’s history with my ‘Graduate Diploma in Radio Broadcasting’.
After graduating from AFTRS, I landed a much sort after producing job at ABC Local Radio Sydney and was due to start a new position with Triple J radio in January this year, until I received a phone call that was to change the course of my life as I knew it. In late December last year, I got a call from my family informing me that my mother had passed away suddenly. The very next day, I threw in my job and flew home to be with my family and take up the role of fulltime carer of my 13 year old brother Eika Stewart, who is here today in year 8.
I guess this is where I relate to this year’s NAIDOC theme the most. Change- ‘The next step is ours’. My life has seen the biggest change so far in the last 6 months. From living in a city of millions, chasing and living out my career in radio, to moving back to the Tablelands after 10 years away from it to take care of my little brother in a township of just a few thousand people. Although it has been hard to adjust to this change, it is a choice I do not regret making.
These days, at the age of 26, I am occasionally contracted on a part time basis by AFTRS to help run and teach Radio workshops to Indigenous communities and broadcasters, recently travelling to Thursday Island in the Torres Straits, and to Sydney to work with Radio 4MW and Koori Radio staff to help better their radio skills. My goal for the future is to eventually start up my radio career once again and continue to share the positive stories of my people to the wider community, through the medium of radio.
My message to all of you young people today is to find something you are passionate about and pursue it to the 10th degree. No goal is unachievable if you really want it. Your life will take twists and turns and your path will change along the way, but it’s up to you and it’s up to us on how we will embrace those changes and turn them into something great for ourselves... I hope you all enjoy NAIDOC week for 2011...
Thank you for having me.