11 March 2020
The She Leads College Conference taking place on Thursday 12 March, is a one-day event aimed at young-woman, non-binary and female students in years 11 and 12. It is designed to equip participants with the practical skills and knowledge they need to become confident leaders. Today, we chat with Taylor Fitzgerald, our ‘Moving from Dreaming to Achieving’ facilitator at the upcoming She Leads College Conference.
Taylor is a 21-year-old Aboriginal Kamilaroi woman who stands proud with the greatest of qualities handed down to her from her long line of Elders. She is an activist, survivor and 2018 NAIDOC Trainee of the year. Taylor’s interest and focus has always been within the power between cultures and education. This love and interest has led her into her current career as an Indigenous Education Officer at a local Canberra High School. Taylor’s passion is making a difference and supporting the voices of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Taylor also strives to fight for the wellbeing and rights of women and children, believing in the connection of earth and the power for freedom within. Taylor breathes, dreams, and walks this daily. Today we caught up with Taylor to chat about her career as an Indigenous Education Officer, her biggest challenges and her drive for raising cultural awareness in Australia.
My role as an Indigenous Education Officer (IEO) is to support our school to build cultural integrity, and work in partnership with teachers to develop culturally appropriate resources and programs. My passion is supporting students and parents by promoting Aboriginal education and ensuring we meet the needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives within the Australian Curriculum.
I will be also supporting the Lanyon high community to engage with families and connect to community, providing advice and leadership to school culture and supporting successful student transitions.
You were also awarded 2018 ACT NAIDOC Trainee/Apprentice of the Year; can you tell us more about the work you did to receive this award?
I commenced my traineeship in May 2017 and was assigned to Richardson Primary School. I was involved in classroom activities at the Koori preschool and across other units of the school. I conducted my role with full commitment to the learning, and in the understanding of how-to best care for and teach the students. I adapted quickly to the challenges of working across different year levels. I was recognised for my achievements from my passion to make strong connections with the school community. Also, as a new face to many of the family members working hard to gain their respect and trust. I also set up a Senior Leadership group embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachings and promoting well being. I also supported students with reading and taught within mainstream classrooms about connection to country.
What have been some of your biggest challenges when embarking on your leadership journey?
Some of my biggest challenges have been to step outside of my comfort zone and connect with my elders in the community. To have conversations, build trust and learn to let people into my protected circle. My biggest learning was accepting that change would take time. Learning how I can be a positive driver and enabler to make that change. I needed to learn and understand my culture more to ensure when I make a change, that it is with the greatest respect to past and present elders. Learning what are the real problems out there that women are facing and ensure that they weren’t just my own perceptions or problems. I want the change I make to help many women now and going into the future.
If you could get one message out to every Australian, what would it be?
I would love for all Australians to understand and have faith and belief in Australia’s young people as we are slowly making change. I want young Aboriginal women like me to stand forward and be part of this change, for them and their children. I want increased cultural awareness so there is a greater understanding of our people’s values and beliefs and I want people to start to talk and to work as one to make a difference.
What advice would you give to yourself when you were in College (years 11 and 12)?
You Matter. You are important for your people and the children who will become our leaders. You have been waiting for someone to heal you, but you became the healer by restoring the cycles of Indigenous kinship and matriarchy. Know that you are as beautiful and as resilient as the land and that you are gifted with a connection to the longest and still living culture in the world. You are never alone, as you have your ancestors waiting for you. Please love yourself because you are the backbone the old ones prayed about.
The She Leads 2020 College Conference is on tomorrow! If you wish to attend our upcoming She Leads High Conference, or find out more information about She Leads College Conference 2021, contact our team at SheLeads@ywca-canberra.org.au
Watch this space if you want to read more about the She Leads Conference wrap up and photo album.