Emerging Leader 2013 – 2014
Stephanie Armstrong is a proud Gamilaraay woman who has strong links with Victoria through family and friends. From a very early age, she looked to teach and learn. A large extended family provided her with many realities that guided her teaching. Her 35 years of experience in education has provided her with the satisfaction of talking and listening to many children and their families. Returning to Victoria after 25 years in other states led her to work in numerous roles both at state and national levels.
Stephanie has been working part-time as the Weenthunga Health Network’s Health and Education consultant. She initiated a number of projects related to connecting with and supporting First Australian senior secondary school girls and was responsible for introducing them to a number of health careers. She has spent a lot of time building relationships with key community members, families, local teachers and tertiary educators in a bid to ensure that First Australian senior secondary school girls have a bright future.
For the past two years, Stephanie has worked with a few key women to plan and run a day where young Aboriginal women studying years 10 to 12 have had the opportunity to come to Melbourne to be a part of a “Women’s Talk: Health Day.” The day provides these young women with the opportunity to hear the stories of nine to 12 Aboriginal women who are currently working in the health field. Stephanie believes that young Aboriginal women will be engaged and inspired by being given the opportunity to listen to the stories of Aboriginal women who are already working in health careers.
Stephanie is passionate about working with young women as they play key roles in their communities as carers, mothers, sisters and aunties. Despite their important role, they remain under-represented in programs designed for young Aboriginal youth. She believes in listening and working with young Aboriginal women so that their voices are heard.
As a member of the Reconciliation Council of Victoria, reconciliation ideas have enhanced her thinking moving forward and her work is entwined with ideas of cultural diversity, respect, strong meaningful relationships, reciprocity and leading by actions.
Her commitment to change and giving voice and strength to being an Aboriginal woman has been at the core of her work within her teaching career as an educational consultant and as a researcher.
Over a number of years, Stephanie has supported students and their teachers, either as a guest lecturer, teacher, a friend or a mentor across a number of schools in Victoria, Ceduna Area School (SA) and within the Western Australian Education System (Kimberley and Pilbara).
She has presented to University students studying teaching and talked at National and International Conferences about her experiences as a First Australian working in the Australian Education system (two-way education). Her co-authored chapter in the text “Two Way Teaching and Learning: Toward culturally reflective and relevant education” (ACER 2011) outlines how she believes that strong relationships between First Australians and Australian people are vital to improving educational and health outcomes.
Recently Stephanie was appointed as Chair of the newly formed Koondee Woonga-gat Toor-rong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Led Philanthropic Fund and received the Indigenous Allied Health Australia Commitment to Indigenous Health Award.
“This morning I sat quietly on the train from Bendigo to Melbourne and read the Fellowship book from front to back. The power of reading and hearing others’ stories is what has kept me going over 30 years of being a part of an educational system that often does not hear, or is often not ready to learn from our stories.
But after the last five years, I believe that there are many more opportunities for our stories to be heard. We just need to take the time to tell the “yarn.” Put worth in our stories and that no one can tell your story.
I listened intently to my mother’s stories, as well as those of my family and friends, and each added to my life. They made me appreciate the love and knowledge that comes from sharing stories. I always begin my professional learning workshops with my story so those listening can know me a little better.
I share my stories to teach, empower, to make others laugh, to build friendships and see the strength, and let everyone see the “brightness” of being Aboriginal. If you are willing to listen and learn, we can enrich each other’s lives. Mandela spoke of “brightness” and this idea has stayed with me over the past 10 years. In its simplest form, it’s the idea of everyone having the right to be themselves and shine. I wish for our young Aboriginal women to shine, to be proud of their identity and to follow their dreams.
Stephanie Armstrong 2014