Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019

Sharni Woods awarded Indigenous Leadership Award

“This award is given to you in recognition of your display of values, behaviour, on being kind, courageous and brave. In being fearless in pursuit of who you are and who you will become. ”
— Phyllis Marsh, Learning Innovator – Indigenous Perspectives


Year 11 student Sharni Woods, was presented with a gold medallion and certificate during assembly yesterday morning for the coveted Indigenous Leadership Award from the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation (QATSIF). The Foundation provides two-year scholarships for students in Year 11 and 12 under its QCE Scholarship Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Some of the award criteria for eligibility that highlighted Sharni’s abilities include being “on track” to receive their QCE by the end of 2020; participates in school activities which enhances her Aboriginal cultural identity; demonstrates willingness to fully participate in the life of the school and be a worthy role model for other students.

Sharni’s leadership skills shines not just in her academic but extracurricular engagement. “She’s everywhere”, says Learning Innovator – Indigenous Perspectives Phyllis Marsh who nominated her for the scholarship. Sharni held the lead role for the school musical, selected to play for the school touch rugby team in Singapore, delivered the vote-of-thanks remarks at the Senior Dinner Dance, participated in the ANZAC parade and much more.

“She is involved in all sorts of activities and puts herself out there. She is fearless in her pursuit of her goals and comes across as someone who is confident and determined to succeed,” added Mrs Marsh.

Sharni, was a breath of fresh air to interview. I could see why she was nominated and now recipient of the Indigenous Leadership Award. Her optimistic outlook, confidence and pride in her school and identity made for a pleasant encounter with Mrs Marsh.

Mrs Marsh reiterated to Sharni, “This award is given to you in recognition of your display of values, behaviour, on being kind, courageous and brave. In being fearless in pursuit of who you are and who you will become.”

1. How has studying at WestMAC and the WestMAC community contributed towards your leadership development as an indigenous student?

I am who I am today because of WestMAC. I started at WestMAC from kindergarten and all the teachers, staff and students have built me into the person I am. My teachers have all encouraged me to learn and provided me with so many opportunities to take advantage of.

2. How did you feel when you were informed that you were the successful recipient of the award?

My mum actually called me when she saw the email from Mrs Marsh. She was so excited and I was surprised and grateful. I knew I was being nominated for the qualities others within my school saw in me but it surprised me when the QATSIF actually agreed and thought I was a worthy recipient.

3. Mrs Marsh nominated you for the award and indicated your display of values, behaviour and on being kind as notable principles to be recognised. What do you feel was your most prominent principle or value?

I guess my strength would be that I am someone who is committed and I put 100% dedication into what I do. Some people say its over-commitment but I believe that you should make the most of the opportunities handed to you.

4. What do you want to be in the future?

At this stage in my life, I want to be in the Defence Force – most likely a crew attendant in the Air Force or a Primary Teacher so I can teach and encourage students to succeed like my teachers have done for me here at WestMAC. But I also know that things might change in the future which is why I take on the opportunities that are available to me - so I’m well prepared and have choices available should I change my mind.

5. What was a major obstacle/challenge this year for you?

The biggest challenge this year for me was adapting to the new ATAR syllabus (new QCE system) for Year 11. It was challenging trying to adjust to something you’re not used to but I guess it’s an example of how things can change at any time - just like that, and I want to be prepared for it.

6. What was a major success this year for you?

I’ve just finished my final exam last Friday and so I feel like I’ve successfully completed this year. I’m practically a Year 12 student now and look forward to next year. I’m very grateful that I didn’t have to give up anything I love doing to achieve my goals this year.

7. Are there any projects/areas you’d like to work in to support the advancement of indigenous young people?

I love being with people, and letting people know that I’m indigenous. I’m proud to be indigenous. It’s important to tell people about your story and who you are and how it defines who are. My grandma Patricia King (Aunty Pat) was an elder of WestMAC when it was first established and she had a huge impact on the College. I remember when I was young how she would tell her stories and opened everyone’s eyes to the history. My favourite memories are listening to the stories face-to-face with Grandma.

8. Who is your favourite role model and why?

There are so many but I would have to say… my parents. My parents are the reason why I am the person I am. They have always been very supportive of me and my goals. They have taught me with the help of my teachers to study and provided encouragement.

Interviewed by Phaedra Ekeroma