I have a friend. Her name is Sharon Davis. Her home is the red dirt and blue seas on Yawuru-Djugun country back in the North West of Australia, the Kimberley. She is studying an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Oxford. This is her second speech, yes her second, requested by High Commission. It was given to an audience of Indigenous students as part of Aurora Indigenous Scholars Study Tour. I share her words of inspiration with you today.
Sharon Davis :
Good evening everyone. We are here this evening to welcome some of Australia’s best and brightest scholars who have been globetrotting the world as part of the Aurora Indigenous Scholars Study Tour.
What an incredible experience for you all; I congratulate you on being chosen to represent your universities, your communities and your People. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed, exhilarated, nervous, and extremely tired – all rolled into a hot-mess of meetings, events and seminars. It is a whirlwind, but a very valuable one that you will never forget.
I attended the Study Tour last year, and found it to be a turning point in what had been a busy few years being a mum and a wife, and studying for my Bachelor of Education at Notre Dame in Broome. Before I went on the trip, all I knew about these prestigious universities was what I had seen on the television or in films. It was so far removed from my reality of red dirt and blue seas on Yawuru-Djugun country back home. Had it not been for this tour, there is no way I would have dreamed I would apply for, let alone be offered places at, two of the worlds top universities. And now, here I am, this Kimberley girl, studying an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Oxford.
I just want to let you know that to doubt yourself is sort of normal. How often have you told yourself on this trip “There’s no way I could do this, there’s no way I will get accepted here, this is not for me”? When Aboriginal people have been told for years, that they are no good and will amount to nothing, I think we sometimes end up believing it. Although we say this to ourselves, it is absolutely not true. Have a look around you. In this room are dozens of brilliant Aboriginal people who smash that ridiculous idea out of the ballpark. You can do it. You will do it.
A few nights ago, we watched John Pilger’s documentary, Utopia. It showed the harsh realities of what life is like for many Aboriginal Australians. I urge everyone to seek it out and watch it. But while doing so, reflect on the diversity of Aboriginal Australia and the amazing things Indigenous people like Eddie Mabo, Marcia Langton, Roberta Sykes, Charlie Perkins, Patrick Dodson, and more recently Nova Peris – to name a few – have done and keep doing for our People. And have a look at the many Aboriginal faces in the room this evening, and remember them – for they will be doing the same. We have to make sure the conversation is not always about deficit, but also one that includes the stories of strength.
Personally, that documentary was not an eye opener, but a reinforcement of why I am here. Being an Aboriginal person, and one who has been fortunate enough to have a solid education, a roof over my head and food on my table every single night – unlike many of our People back home – I feel I have a duty, a responsibility, an actual obligation to be the best I can be here, to make life more equitable for our Mob.
For me, this amazing Oxford experience is a means to an end.
I could have stayed at home, on my Country, with my family, surrounded by sky blue sea, teaching in my classroom, eating bluebone and rice every weekend. But, if I can go home, to my Country with the Oxford stamp on my business card, and that it will mean I have a better chance at getting my foot in the door towards making real educational change for my People – that is why I do this. Not just for the experience. Not for prestige, high teas or Harry Potter dinners. I do it for our kids and our People. So, in closing, I just want to say, be proud. Work hard. Aim high. Don’t let anyone (not even yourself) make you think you can’t. Because you can. You’ve already proven it.
Good luck on the rest of the tour. I hope you enjoy Cambridge – but it will obviously not be as great as Oxford. Congratulations again and welcome to the rest of your journey.
Thank you for listening.