Two young Indigenous women have been honoured by the Zonta Club for their positive impacts on their schools and the wider Inverell community.
Alex Jeffery of Inverell High School received the District 24 award for a Young Indigenous Woman, chosen out of a strong field of 27 applicants throughout NSW and the ACT.
“It’s amazing. I want to make sure that I represent the award well, and to what it deserves. I’m still kind of freaking out a little bit,” she said.
Meanwhile Macintyre High School’s Lea Jerrard Lea won the 2018 Armidale Zonta Club's award for a Young Indigenous Woman, as well as receiving a Highly Commended for the District 24 award. Fellow student Miranda Boney, was also highly commended for the District 24 award.
The young women are nominated by their schools for their hard work and inspiring attitudes.
“I was surprised, because I don’t really win at anything,” Lea said. She credited teachers Brett Newton (head of welfare) and Lindsay Gunther (year 12 advisor) for their support.
Alex was equally stunned by the honour. Her passion for dancing and love for her culture impressed the selection committee.
“One of our questions was about what does culture mean to us and I’m very passionate about my culture, it is who I am,” Alex said.
She discussed her hopes of becoming a professional dancer and plans to apply for the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA). Alex has already made an impact on the Indigenous dancing scene, performing at various state festivals and taking part in the Bangarra Rekindling Junior Dance Development Program.
She’s also interested in becoming a paramedic and says the opportunity to help others and ability to face new challenges every day appeals to her.
Mr Newton and Ms Gunther felt Lea’s powerful connection to her role model, her older sister who inspired her to finish year 12 and join the workforce, touched the judges.
“She had everybody in tears, including me,” Ms Gunther said.
“I have a lot of respect for Lea and I think she’s going to do a lot with her life. She has a strong career ahead of her with what she’s chosen, and it seems like it’s something she really loves.”
Lea is currently completing a traineeship with ANZ, and despite her shy nature, has discovered a love for customer service.
“She (my sister) encourages me everyday to finish it. She said that it gave her a lot of opportunities,” Lea said.
“I feel good. I feel like I’m on the right track, that I’m actually going to go out there, get a job because of my traineeship.”
She said although it came as a surprise, the award gave her more confidence and motivation for the future.
“I don’t know whether they necessarily see themselves as role models, but they certainly stand out. It’s really interesting for us to see the girls that we’ve seen when they received the award, and then to see them 12 months, or three months later, see how far they’ve developed in confidence,” Zonta Club of Armidale president Jennifer Miller said. The club keeps an ongoing relationship with the award winners.
She was thrilled to watch former Inverell High student and previous Armidale Zonta Club award-winner Ebony Adams as she continues to find success studying law and art at the University of New England. Ebony was on the selection committee for the district award this year.
“It’s really fabulous to see. They can tell you what they think they’re going to be doing when they leave school, but it’s actually wonderful to then see that they have done exactly what they said they’re going to do,” Ms Miller said.
Zonta is an international club with a key focus on empowering women. Ms Miller said the club is considering starting up an Inverell branch in the future.