Welcome to GO-Q16

It’s great to be welcoming 110 new GO Foundation Scholars for 2021. Altogether, there are 245 GO scholars this year in NSW, SA and the ACT, which is fantastic! At GO HQ, the team is busy organising student get togethers for upcoming mentoring and culture days. Hopefully these GO gatherings will be in person as the Covid-19 situation gets better. We’ll keep you posted.

For GO newbies, GO-Q is our interactive student newsletter full of culture, news from GO, scholar stories and, in this issue, some deadly changemaking campaigns to get involved with. We encourage you to read it and share with family and friends. If you have some news to include in GO-Q, please send it through to Mark or Ashlie at GO.  Don’t be shy!

A message from Sonja Stewart, GO Chair

Congratulations GO’s Class of 2020

A huge shout out to GO’s Class of 2020 who were celebrated at a special graduation ceremony during the 2021 GO Launch on February 25.  It was a deadly night at the SCG that included a performance by rap artist BARKAA (whose niece is a new GO Scholar!).  GO Scholars Regan and Mikaela from Airds High School did us all proud as MCs for the evening, Mitch Gibbs nailed his speech as GO’s first PhD graduate and GO Alumnus Lua Pellegrini’s art lit up the room. Great job everyone!

The Vigil at Barangaroo – Uralaku Thikina (A Dance Home)

Adam (Goodes) and Michael (O’Loughlin), with son James, were part of the The Vigil at Barangaroo Headland on January 25thThe Vigil is a powerful performance event marking the eve of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Part of the troupe of 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, Adam, Michael and James performed a special dance called Uralaku Thikina directed by Stephen Page of Bangarra fame. Meaning ‘the dance home’, it celebrates the unity, strength and resilience of warriors and the responsibility men have to their family and community and honours our First Nations women.

For first time ‘professional’ performers, they were incredible, and set the bar high for future GO mentoring day culture sessions! Watch them here  (spool through to just past 23 minutes for their performance). Here’s Adam to tell you all about the experience.
*photograph credit – Yaya Stempler

Adam and dancers at VigilAdam at Vigil

A Yarn with Sonja Stewart

Sonja Stewart sat down with GO for an inspiring yarn about growing up with her extended family, being the first in family to go to university and her career path. A proud Yuen woman, Sonja became the first Indigenous GO Foundation Chair in 2020, and also the first Indigenous and first woman CEO of the Law Society of NSW.

Sonja Stewart graduation picGO: Did you have a clear idea of what your path would be when you were young? What did you learn from your elders and community that helped guide you?

SONJA: I really enjoyed helping people and solving problems and I liked to challenge myself. I did a law and commerce degree which is something I knew I wanted to do in High School, but I didn’t know where that might take me. I was brought up in a supportive family, particularly by my parents, grandparents, and aunties, who instilled in me a strong approach to working hard and the belief that I could be anything that I wanted to be. Even though I was the first from either side of the family to finish school and to go to university, I did not feel pressure or expectation from them, I just felt a lot of support and pride.

GO: How did you learn the importance of country, and what does that mean to you today?

SONJA: I am still on my journey about country – still listening and learning. I learnt from family and I learnt from my own experiences of that unique and special feeling of being on country, the shoes off feeling connected to the ground and of course that special feeling of being in salt water. Also looking up to the sky at the day and stars at night and thinking about what the ancestors would have seen and felt.

GO: How different is what you are doing now to what you imagined you would do with your life when you were at school?

SONJA: At school I always tried to work hard, listen and learn and challenge myself. I liked being organised – some people might refer to that as being bossy! Finding myself in a role where I lead a team doing important work and learning every day is close to that. I try to not be caught up by titles or the organisations that I work for. What matters most is that the feeling of purpose and belonging and values where I work all align with mine.

GO: Did you always want to go to university? Was it everything you thought it would be?

SONJA: I had no concept of university; I did not know anyone who had been. I found it hard and I found my degree really long. It’s often the times in your life that you find the most challenging that are also the times when you have to back yourself. On reflection you find these times the most rewarding. The connections at the Koori Centre, the lifelong friendships and finding and taking opportunities including jobs to get you through were really important. I also went on an Indigenous Exchange Program to Canada, and it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Leaving my family was tough as I had never spent a night away from family at that point in my life.

GO: How did you know you’d discovered a career you are passionate about?

SONJA: I have had a career focussed in Government for 30 years and then a short stint at KPMG and now CEO of the Law Society of New South Wales. In each of these roles, I had a significant ‘ah-ha’ moment where I felt connected, I felt valued, and I felt inquisitive and driven to work hard to have an impact.

GO: What does it mean to you to see GO Scholars do well at school and in life?

SONJA: It means everything to me – it makes me swell with pride. It makes me optimistic for a different and better future and it makes me work harder to be the best Chairperson of the GO Foundation I can be.

GO: If you were speaking to a 15-year-old version of yourself, what advice would you offer?

SONJA: It would be to never forget where you come from. Acknowledge those who walked before us and whose shoulders we stand on, back yourself and have fun (and don’t get the perm!).


Congratulations Kiahn!

GO Scholar (and dancer extraordinaire) Kiahn from Byron Bay was runner up in the Byron Shire Australia Day awards for Young Creative Artist of the Year! It’s such a deadly achievement and we’re hoping Kiahn might have time in between her HSC studies to perform her dance piece at a GO get together in 2021. Congratulations Kiahn!

Yanalangami: Strong Women Strong Communities

Yanalangami logoDo you know a Deadly Tidda Changemaker? Tranby is seeking Indigenous girls and women who are passionate about initiatives that improve the lives of girls, women and community. The program will see 16 girls and women selected by the Yanalangami’s Aboriginal Women’s Advisory Council to take part in one of two bespoke leadership programs. And that could be you GO Scholars! Or it could be your sisters, mothers, aunties or cousins. So read on.

There are two categories to enter: Emerging Changemakers (16-25 years) and Community Changemakers (over 25). You can nominate yourself or nominate someone you know who makes her community a better place. Tranby is Australia’s first and longest running Aboriginal-controlled education organisation in Australia. You have until 2pm on 5th April to get your entry in! Head to the website for all the details or check it out on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn our Truth

Learn our TruthLearn Our Truth is an Indigenous youth-led campaign calling for true Aboriginal and Torres Strait history to be learnt in schools. The primary goal of the campaign is to work with educators, school leaders and principals to take a pledge to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history is embedded in their school. It’s focused on centring the voices and experiences of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To learn more and spread the word head to the website. You can watch the Learn our Truth campaign video here.

Culture Podcast: Frontier War Stories

Frontier War Stories coverartNot long after the First Fleet arrived in 1788, Aboriginal people sacrificed their lives in the war of resistance that went on for roughly 140 years. It’s a side of Australian history not written about much in our history books, so Brisbane radio host Boe Spearim, a Gamilaraay, Kooma and Murrawarri man, has made a podcast series called the Frontier War Stories to give everyone an opportunity to learn more about these Aboriginal warriors through one of the oldest forms of storytelling – oral history. In each episode, Boe speaks with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to piece together these stories of warriors like Dundalli, and Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda. You can listen to the series on PodbeanGoogle PodcastsApple PodcastsSound Cloud and wherever you get your podcasts.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Important news for 2021 is the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are prioritised, according to health and age, and it’s happening in stages. We should all have the opportunity to get the Covid-19 shot by year’s end (summer holidays here we come!). To keep up to date with information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders about the vaccines and how and when to get yours head to health.gov.au. There’s also a vaccine enquiry page and a hotline to call for more info on 1800 020 080.

GO well GO Family!