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

VCAL Achievement Awards

2016 VCAL Achievement Awards student speech

Chelsea giving her speech at the VCAL Achievement Awards ceremony

Chelsea Chatfield

Chelsea Chatfield, recipient of the VCAL Koori Student Achievement Award, presented an inspiring speech on behalf of the VCAL Award winners at the 2016 VCAL Achievement Awards. As part of her VCAL studies in 2016, Chelsea organised a range of projects and fundraising events aimed at ‘closing the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous education. She developed an ongoing partnership between her school, the Cathy Freeman Foundation and Stawell Athletic Club. Chelsea also organised NAIDOC week at the school and wrote the lesson plan for the NAIDOC week home group sessions.
(Reproduced with permission from Chelsea Chatfield)

Download Chelsea's speech (mp3 - 9.56mb)
Duration: 6 minutes 57 seconds

Speech transcript

Good afternoon. My name is Chelsea. I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. I’d like to pay my respects to their elders past, future and present, and any elders from other communities who might be here today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, teachers and fellow VCAL students, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone here today who has received an award and to thank the VCAA for acknowledging our achievements in this way. VCAL is an important program for a lot of people, me included.

For the longest time, school was not something I enjoyed. I was struggling to get to the end of year 11 and I couldn’t bear the thought of being there for another year and basically decided I would leave school. But it was in talking to my school VCAL coordinator that I realised there were other options. He was super keen for me to join VCAL, and before I knew it I was back at school, but this time happy to be there.

I didn’t know very much about VCAL back then, and I certainly didn’t expect to achieve everything that I did over the last year. My school had previously participated in fundraising for the Cathy Freeman Foundation and had sent a team to run in the Melbourne marathon. The Cathy Freeman Foundation supports four remote indigenous communities around Australia to help indigenous students through their education. They have multiple programs to keep the students at school and help reduce the disadvantage that we Koori Students have within our education system still today.

After learning about The Cathy Freeman Foundation, I decided my VCAL project would be to create a fundraising program for the foundation. So I began to plan my year imagining maybe developing a few, small activities at school and maybe sending a running team to the Stawell Gift marathon again. The Stawell Gift is the world’s most famous and prestigious footrace run every year over Easter except four since 1878. After a bit more research, though, I discovered that Cathy Freeman already had a connection with Stawell – she ran and won the Women’s 400m race at the Gift and 2016 would be the 20th Anniversary of that win. It now seemed really important to follow this idea through. So I approached the Stawell Athletic Club and a forged a partnership between Stawell Secondary College, The Cathy Freeman Foundation and the Athletics Club. The Foundation was appointed the official charity partner of the Stawell Gift that year. This was a big deal and a huge success for us, as historically the Gift only ever chooses one charity partner a year. So between the school, the athletics club and the foundation we conducted fundraising events over the biggest weekend in Stawell.

My year from that point was full on and really exciting. I attended the athletic club meetings, meetings in Melbourne with the Foundation to develop and launch the partnership, a meeting with the mayor of Stawell, as well as multiple phone call meetings in the lead up to the Gift while conducting volunteer meetings as well. So many meetings and the Easter weekend was approaching extremely fast.

I attended the Calcutta where Cathy had signed a running bib which was auctioned to the public and for the remained of the Easter weekend; I coordinated the fundraising at the Gift. We had a raffle, volunteers with donation tins and had a range of information promoting the Foundation, and we also had some local indigenous artwork for sale. It was very successful as we raised a total of $4,230. The partnership has now been set up for years to come and it will stay within the VCAL system at Stawell Secondary College.

My year didn’t end there, however. To celebrate NAIDOC week, I coordinated a ceremony at Stawell Secondary College that included a mural of handprints painted over the course of the week. I also organised to have trivia question competitions in home group classes, a red, black and yellow casual dress day, and a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony performed by a local elder. I was also invited to attend a Cathy Freeman Workshop to speak about my achievements and the ways in which others can fundraise for the foundation. I even had the great pleasure of meeting Cathy herself.

Alongside my projects for the Foundation, I was undertaking my Certificate II in Hair and Beauty, and began a work placement with a hairdressing salon in Stawell. I also worked a part-time job that allowed me to complete my Cert II in Retail. The VCAL program had allowed me to pursue my passions and interests in the community and my career, and I felt so lucky that all this work I was doing was also work on my VCAL certificate – an opportunity for me to finish school and love it.

I received the Stawell Secondary College Dux of VCAL at the end of my schooling and it was a really great achievement for me. I can honestly say my VCAL experience is one I will cherish forever. I have gained new skills, made new friendships, and even made connections through work that I will carry on into the future. VCAL was the ideal way for me to not only stay in school but to achieve so many incredible things I didn’t even know was possible.

Now, having graduated from high school, I am studying the Diploma of Beauty Therapy at Federation University in Ballarat, and I plan to undertake an event management course sometime in the future. VCAL has been so important in helping me achieve this.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank some important people: My parents, for their ongoing support and encouragement that means so much to me. I hope that I have made you extremely proud and continue to do so throughout my future.

I’d like to thank Stawell Secondary College and my VCAL co-ordinator Chad Frost. Chad, my success i VCAL would not have been possible without your help, support and guidance. And to all the teaching staff at Stawell, your support was so important to me.

I would also like to thank The Cathy Freeman Foundation and the Stawell Athletic Club for allowing me to achieve such a big and successful project. To Luke, Jamie and Ian, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have without your incredible support, I’m so grateful to have been able to work with such an incredible team.

Finally, on behalf of all the winners here today, I’d like to thank you for allowing me to share my VCAL story with you and to congratulate everyone here for their outstanding achievements.

Thank you.