15 April 2024

‘Pay it forward’ inspires the next generation

Yalari was founded on the philosophy of paying it forward: just as Mrs Rosemary Bishop paved the way for Waverley Stanley to attend Toowoomba Grammar School, Waverley has paid it forward by offering the same opportunity to more than 700 young Indigenous children just like him.

That pay it forward ideal is now driving the next generation, with Yalari alumna, Sheldyn Briggs determined to follow in Waverley’s footsteps.

“Waverley has always been my inspiration to give back to my community. In every application I write – for jobs, work placements, scholarships, anything – I talk about Waverley and how he expanded my horizons beyond Moree by making it possible for me to go away to a boarding school like Abbotsleigh.

One of the big opportunities Abbotsleigh gave me was sport. I played Saturday sport just like other boarders, but my main sport was touch football. I was fortunate that my footy coach also worked with Hornsby Touch Football. She got me playing with Hornsby, which opened up opportunities to go away to Port Macquarie for State Cup every year at school as well as while I was at university.

I would never have had those opportunities back home in Moree. Even though sport was a big thing there, you just don’t have the same resources and funding in small regional towns.”

After finishing year 12, Sheldyn went on to the University of Technology Sydney and studied Primary Teaching. She was offered a job back in Moree once she graduated.

“I was never tempted to stay in Sydney – I always knew I wanted to go home and give back to my own community. The kids all knew me – they knew I was from Moree, that I sat in the same classroom they were in; and that I got a scholarship to go away to boarding school and then went to university. It was so great to be able to tell them my story and show what was possible for them.

And it’s interesting because one of the students from my very first Year 5 class is now a Yalari scholar.”

After two years teaching in Moree, Sheldyn moved to Dubbo, teaching at Peak Hill Central School, before finding a role that perfectly combined her love of teaching and sport as a Program Lead with the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA).

“NASCA runs programs for Indigenous high school students in the Northern Territory and in a number of schools around NSW. Our programs use sport as a way of engaging with kids and teaching them about health and well-being, as well as things like teamwork, problem solving, communication and nutrition. It also helps them to avoid negative influences – drugs, alcohol, low self-esteem, boredom.

I’m delivering programs at Dubbo College’s Delroy campus where we have more than 100 Indigenous girls in NASCA’s Young Women’s Academy.

I only started with NASCA in the last term of 2023 but I’m really loving it.”

Throughout her working life, Sheldyn has maintained her connection with Yalari; most recently by travelling to the Gold Coast to attend the Senior Leaders’ Camp to then volunteer at the Orientation Camp.

“It was a perfect opportunity to give back to Yalari and to share my story with little kids just starting their Yalari journey.

My goal now is to become a leader with NASCA, so the Yalari Leadership Camp came at the right time. I’ve also signed up to do the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre course in Indigenous Leadership this year through Yalari’s Pathways program.

I am beyond grateful for what Yalari has given me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Yalari’s support and the doors they have opened for me – whether it be sporting opportunities, academic opportunities, lifetime friends and connections.

I’m just so thankful for how Waverley paid it forward by creating Yalari. Now I want to see how I can pay it forward.”

This article was published in our 2023 Annual Review.
Click here to read more.

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Yalari respects our Elders, past and present, and acknowledges that our office is on Kombumerri country within the lands of the Yugambeh language group.