Bonnie Smith - Aboriginal Young Achiever
Oftentimes it can be all too easy for the achievements of young people to go unrecognised, however unintentionally. Far too often community endeavours are forgotten about and we lose sight of how great some of the work being done by young people is.
Fortunately there are a variety of award schemes that have been created to remedy this. Enter the Ricci Marks Aboriginal Young Achiever Award.
About the Ricci Marks Awards
The Ricci Marks Aboriginal Young Achiever Award (new window) celebrates the achievements of outstanding young Indigenous Victorians.
In 2012 the winners were selected from nominees from across Victoria, from Geelong to Wondonga. The award itself is named after 2000's winner, Ricci Marks, who tragically passed away in 2004.
Verhonda Smith, or Bonnie, is one of the award's 2012 winners. At the time of the announcement she was in the third year of her undergraduate degree in Indigenous Studies and History at the University of Melbourne, which she will complete at the end of 2013.
A Young Leader
You're probably wondering what was on Bonnie's resume that made her stand out from the rest of the pack of nominees. Aside from being a gifted academic student, Bonnie excels at netball. It is through netball that she has become a leader for other young Indigenous women, captaining the women's National Indigenous Schoolgirls' netball team for two consecutive years.
Bonnie was also involved in an Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, an initiative that provides scholarships to Indigenous young people so they can attend high-performing secondary schools.
As part of the program she travelled to the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and to the remote Kimberly region of Northern Australia. Having completed the program, Bonnie is now involved with the fundraising committee for this initiative, helping to raise money to keep the program going.
The Importance of Community Participation
Upon completing university, Bonnie plans to return to her home town of Bourke, in New South Wales, and give back to the community she's already given so much to, at the same time as helping out with her family.
When talking to Bonnie, what is obvious is her passion to give back to her community. When talking of the inequality faced by Indigenous youth she speaks with zeal and fervour, talking of her longing to help other young women learn about health and the importance of education. Above all else she stresses the importance of community participation for all young people Australia-wide, not just in her home town.
It's young people like Bonnie who need to be recognised more often, and it is programs like the Ricci Marks Award that are required to do it. Although only two young people are able to receive the $5,000 bursary each year, which is given to them to support their education and future development, on offer, no doubt all of the nominees - this year and in previous years - deserved the prize.
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