Encouragement to pursue dreams
Horsham’s Danae Mcdonald is developing skills for the future through a new youth leadership program designed to encourage the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander leaders to dream big.
The Baldau Yiooghen Youth Leadership Academy brings together community, cultural and sporting groups to support young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they strive towards their educational, employment and leadership goals. Baldau Yiooghen means ‘big dreams’ in Wurundjeri language.
Danae, who is completing year 12 at Horsham’s St Brigid’s College, was invited to share her experiences at an academy launch ceremony in Melbourne.
Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative chose Danae to be part of an academy pilot program.
“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life so far and has taken me to places I had never dreamed I would go,” she said.
The pilot program included visits to Melbourne and Darwin.
Danae said making a connection with Essendon Football Club was a highlight.
“Being able to sit down in an informal situation with the players that you see every week on the TV was amazing,” she said.
“I learnt that they are just like you and me, they were young kids like us who had big dreams and with some hard work had been able to achieve them.”
Danae said the program exceeded her expectations.
“If I’m completely honest I saw it as a chance to go away from home for a week and get out of some classes,” she said.
“What it turned out to be was an amazing experience that has seen my leadership skills grow, my confidence expand, and it has given me the courage to try new things.
“If it hadn’t have been for this program I would never have self-nominated for my school leadership group or given the required speech to my peers.
“I have also started providing a welcome to country at important school assemblies and other key community events.
“I would strongly encourage anyone offered the chance to participate in this program to go for it – yes, you’ll be taken out of your comfort zone, but the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.
“It is, however, a case of you get out of it what you put in to it.”
Michael Long’s The Long Walk charity and Anglicare Victoria facilitate the Baldau Yiooghen Youth Leadership Academy.
The project involves Aboriginal organisations including Goolum Goolum and links young people with community Elders and industry and cultural experiences with partner organisations.
Anglicare Victoria community development manager David Law said following a successful pilot program, the launch signified the collaboration of organisations to offer the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders’ guidance and encouragement to achieve their future goals.
“Baldau Yiooghen is all about promoting opportunities for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so they will achieve their full potential,” he said.
“The organisations involved provide invaluable opportunities for all the young people who take part.
“Following the program, the young people return to local communities and those over the age of 15 form a youth advisory committee to advise the board at their local aboriginal co-operative, as well as paid work experience with one of the academy partners.
“They are also encouraged to form a Youth Advisory Committee in their community.” The academy is the latest accolade for Danae. In 2016, she was awarded membership of the Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholars program through the University of Melbourne and in 2017 won acceptance to University of Adelaide’s Karnkanthi Scholarship program.
“It is my aspiration to attend the University of Adelaide next year to work towards my goal of becoming an anaesthetist,” Danae said.
Horsham’s Tanisha Lovett also participated in the program. She has landed a traineeship with Goolum Goolum and is completing certificate IV in IT at Federation University. Her artwork featured at the launch.