Sarah Skitt was a 2013 winner of National Doug Jukes Memorial Scholarship through the Australian Business and Community Network. Scholarship winners receive $7,000 in total over Year 11, Year 12 and the first year of tertiary education, and gain access to mentoring, coaching and networking events. Read Sarah’s Essay and acceptance speech…
Being born with a strong spirit and pale skin can make it hard to find your place. There is still a belief that there is a big difference between black Australians and white Australians, but modern Aboriginals don’t get to choose a side, you are simply who you are. Learning the truth of my heritage answered many questions about my strong feelings for the land, our animals and plants, but raised questions about my acceptance. Would darker Aboriginals believe my understanding of spirit and would whites allow me to embrace my culture?
The first time I shared my truth with a friend they responded with a question. A question I would come here many times.
“So what are you, about one sixteenth?”
Imagine thinking that spirit comes in fractions? Do you know how many times I have had to explain that “cast” is a term used to imply that Aboriginality is a bad gene that can be bred out? Casting is used to make us feel undervalued and that we don’t have a place. We are almost a by-product like sheep dags and chook scraps. However, having to explain this reality has actually lead to an improvement in their understanding and strengthens my connection with my spirit.
Embracing my heritage and culture has changed the way I see the world and given me opportunities I didn’t realise I had. Learning the language, traditions and knowing that I’m different makes me feel I have been given a given a gift. Knowing I live among the Kulbardis and yongas, and watching the six seasons pass makes me part of the magic. I can sit in the long grass typing on an iPad knowing I am connected to the land and still welcomed in the modern world. As my acceptance of myself grew I began to see how much my actions reflected on how my people are seen.
I try my hardest in everything I do. I love school, I want to succeed and I want to show that being Aboriginal doesn’t change that. For too long we’ve been touted as great athletes, but as somebody who hates running, I want to show we can be far more than just that. We a mob of individuals and I am an individual with my own things to offer. I want to be a zoologist. Working with animals is something that I have always dreamed of doing and I am definitely going to work hard to make sure that my dream comes true.
The journey ahead has many challenges, but I know I have support to meet these challenges head on. Along with my family, community opportunities like this scholarship make me feel that I have something valuable to offer and that I am not alone. When I look back at what the Aboriginal people have achieved since colonisation I know I come from a powerful and motivated people. I know my place in this world is safe, not because others allow me to be a modern Aboriginal but simply because I am a modern Aboriginal. My name is Sarah Kathleen Skitt and I am a proud Noongar woman.
How I would use this scholarship to benefit me
This scholarship will allow me to fund my education to achieve my dreams. Music is a big part of my life and something that I would like to continue with in university. I would use some of the money from this scholarship to fund playing my guitar and my singing so I can keep doing the things I love. At the moment we are living in a shed on a block and having to save up some money to hopefully start building our house soon. However, this does mean that money is tight sometimes and hopefully this scholarship will be able to ease some of the financial strains of my family. This will be especially important next year as we will be building our house.
Sarah’s Acceptance Speech
My name is Sarah and I am a young Noongar woman who is proud to stand before you. Embracing my heritage and culture has changed the way I see the world and given me opportunities I didn’t realise I had. Learning the language, traditions and knowing that I’m different makes me feel I have been given a given a gift. Knowing I live among the Kulbardis and yongas, and watching the six seasons pass makes me part of a special magic. I can sit in the long grass typing on an iPad knowing I am connected to the land and still welcomed in the modern world. As I grow and learn I am becoming aware of how my actions reflect not only on me, but on how Aboriginals are viewed. But I am not alone.
Like the African proverb says “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”
From the beginning, I have been supported by my family, school, teachers, friends and community. I have consistently been encouraged to achieve my best. After learning that I had won this amazing honour I immediately began to think of what I had planned for my future and where this scholarship could take me. Being a zoologist has been a dream of mine since I was seven. I read an inspirational story about Lisa Melo and her courageous fight to rescue Asian elephants and bring them to Australia. Ever since then I have been focusing my studies around this dream of one day making a difference. Knowing that there is a wider interest in my potential, regardless of what that may be, is both empowering and motivating. The extra value of being able to share this experience with important people like my parents and my principal is invaluable. This support not only gives me confidence in myself but also the confidence to believe in my dreams.
I would like to thank ABCN for providing this opportunity. Not just the promise of financial support but also the lifelong gift of belief. Thank you for believing that what I can do, and what I can offer the world is of value. You are leading by example and giving others the opportunity to set good examples in turn. Although we hadn’t even met, you were actively working to help raise a child.
“We may be separated by oceans but overall this world is one big village”