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 40 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 works part-time with Weenthunga Health Network to provide leadership in strength based approaches to young women and their sense of identity. Her other focus is to increase the knowledge and understandings of Australians who wish to support improved Indigenous health outcomes. Her energy has seen her present workshop from schools to Universities so as to provide an informed network of supporters to local students. Always encouraging all to work with compassion, love and courage. Her respected position now sees her being termed as an Aunty, not only within her local Bendigo community but further afield in Victoria.
Stephanie has worked with a few key women to provide the opportunity for young Aboriginal women studying years 10 to 12 to come to Melbourne to be a part of a “Women’s Talk: Health Day.” The day provided 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.
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).
In 2019 she was the first Aboriginal Level 3 Manager within a school context in WA. She hoped that the stepping back into a school ground would provide insights, courage and humility to create space for young First Nation students’ voice to lead and transform an education system which has been challenged by many First Nation educators for decades.
Stephanie was given the Commitment to Indigenous Health Award at the 2018 Indigenous Allied Health Forum in Sydney and was appointed as the Inaugural Chair of Koondee Woonga-gat Toor-rong a First Nations Community-Led Philanthropic Fund in 2019.
“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