VCAL Achievement Awards - recognising the achievements of VCAL students, teachers and partner organisations. Nomination close 20 November 2017.

VCAL Achievement Awards

2015 VCAL Achievement Awards student speech

Dharna Nicholson-Bux, winner of the VCAL Koori Student Achievement Award, presented an inspiring speech on behalf of all the VCAL award winners at the 2015 VCAL Achievement Awards ceremony. Dharna is an outstanding ambassador for the Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta people and for the VCAL program at Narre Warren South P–12 College.
(Reproduced with permission from Dharna Nicholson-Bux)

Speech transcript

Burndap Yalingbu, Narrin-ik Dharna. Wurundjeri-willam-ik. Wurundjeri-al biik-u wumen-nganjin Yalingbu, Yorta-Yorta.

Good morning, my name is Dharna. My clans are Wurundjeri-Willam the traditional owners of the land we are gathered today and Yorta-Yorta.

Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, teachers and VCAL students, I would like to say congratulations to everyone who has received an award and I would like to say thank you to the VCAA for acknowledging our achievements.

VCAL is an amazing pathway. Without it I would not be in school today. In Year 10 I failed English – I hated it. Maths and History were okay but it was clear that I excelled in hands-on subjects, excursions, Outdoor Ed, Food Tech and dance. I was unsure of what I wanted to do, and that VCE and university weren’t for me. I had passion for travel, but how would that result in a pathway? I first heard about VCAL in Year 7 and I thought – enrol me now!

I started in VET Hospitality because I love food, but then reality hit - I had to wash dishes and complete homework. Then, I saw the uniform – chequered pants, hair net, the  shirt and hat and the white neckerchief – and it hit home that as much as I love to eat, I couldn’t comply with the uniform requirements. I had to rethink my options – in the end the solution was easy – VET Community Services was the obvious choice.

I am a proud and passionate member of the Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta tribes. Through VCAL not only was I able to continue promoting my culture but it also counted as credits towards my VCAL Senior Certificate! I secured work placement with the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council in Abbotsford. Although my official placement day is Wednesday, my VCAL teachers have supported me to attend events during school time. This work, has been varied and exciting and has included:

  • reception duties
  • ceremonial dance for Dreamtime at the G, the Opening of the William Barak building, The Long Walk Concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the Tanderrum ceremony at Federation Square. This is a coming together for the five tribes of the Kulin Nations from Central Victoria and the Moomba Parade
  • the advertisement for The First Peoples Exhibition at Melbourne Museum alongside Marbee Williams and elder, elders Uncle Jack Charles and Aunty Fay Carter
  • workshops as such as the Interpretive Sign tour, about the Shared histories of Pound Bend
  • assisting Uncle Bill Nicholson with presentations on Aboriginal culture, including the history of Marngrook, the possum-skin cloak and stone axe.

I also appeared in photos for Tourism Victoria with the Djirri Djirri dance group. And I assisted in the Murrum Turukuruk ceremony, which is a women’s coming of age ceremony. Part of my role involved creating ceremonial materials in emu feather skirts, possum skin belts, reed necklaces, head bands and arm bands.

VCAL teachers are brilliant: they make our class work interesting, enjoyable, relevant to the real world and challenging. They are friendly, approachable and supportive. There is a huge focus on hands-on learning. I started to enjoy school again in Year 11 VCAL and have excelled in Year 12. Personal Development has been a highlight for me this semester. One unit on ‘Is Australia the Best Country in the World?’ enabled me to learn about the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, multiculturalism in Australia and the treatment of Indigenous Australians.

I was able to share my cultural heritage with my classmates, and learn about theirs. We had a wonderful celebration of multicultural Australia through our VCAL multicultural day, which brought so many people together in a celebration of the things that make this a great country. Because of this work in VCAL, plans are advanced for a Year 9 Indigenous Day, which will raise awareness of indigenous culture throughout our school and hopefully become embedded in our curriculum.

At the start of Term 3 I will be travelling to Hawaii, America, Canada and New Zealand from 11 July to 24 September. I will be travelling with my mum, my sister, Uncle Bill and my cousin. Uncle Bill won the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2014 for funding to research cultural tourism in first nations, communities and major cities.

As for the rest of my life, I plan to work or volunteer overseas with disadvantaged communities. I will also work with Indigenous communities within Australia in my role as a youth worker and ambassador for Indigenous people.

None of this would have been possible for me without the support of my family.

Thank you to mum for supporting me, providing me with so many opportunities and putting up with me.

And thank you to Uncle Bill and Suzie who are here today to support me and my Aunties, Uncles, cousins and my extended family. Your support has, your support and advice has been invaluable.

As students, we owe so much to our teachers for helping and supporting us through VCAL. The amount of time and effort that goes into assisting us with our school work but also planning a really exciting and engaging curriculum probably doesn’t get acknowledged enough. More than that, our teachers help us develop into young adults who feel that we can make a positive and worthwhile contribution to the wider world.

In conclusion, on behalf of all the award winners here today, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to tell my VCAL story and congratulate everybody for their great achievements. Well done to you all – this is the beginning of something very exciting as we approach our futures confidently and well prepared thanks to VCAL.

Ngoon Godgin. Thank you.