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28 February 2024

Sharing Indigenous truth – one story at a time

In 2008, Yalari welcomed its third cohort of Rosemary Bishop Scholarship recipients: 25 wide-eyed Year 7 students from all over Australia. Among them was Marley Holloway-Clarke from Devonport, Tasmania who was heading off to board at Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston. Even in those early days, Marley was following in the footsteps of her big brother Tyson who had received a Yalari scholarship the year before.

Marley with her brother and sister

“I remember when Waverley and Matt came to our house to interview Tyson in 2006. Yalari had only started the year before and we didn’t know much about it, so it was all very informal. I was the younger sibling showing off to the visitors – I made them all listen to me play the saxophone (I was just pressing buttons and blowing air!). We took them up to the mountain where it was snowing. We just had no idea of the magnitude of what was about to happen.”

What happened was that Yalari changed the lives of the Holloway-Clarke siblings, setting Marley on a journey that literally took her to the other side of the world.

“Scotch Oakburn was a Round Square School – part of an international network of 250+ schools in 50+ countries, built on ideals such as international understanding, environmental stewardship, adventure, leadership and service. It was one of the opt-in programs at Scotch Oakburn and I opted in from my first year, all the way through to Year 12.

It involved a lot of service-based activities – fundraising, organising recycling, going to meetings – but then, in Year 9, I was one of five students selected to go on a Round Square trip to Cambodia and Thailand. It was my first international trip and I was just 14 years old.

Outback Camp 2009

We started in Cambodia, working with students from other Round Square schools to build homes for poor families in rural areas. Then we travelled to St Regent’s School in Thailand for a week-long conference where we were hearing from not-for-profit agencies about their vision for health and education. We were also making friends with students from all over the world.

In Year 12, I applied to go to another Round Square trip to the USA – Los Angeles, New York and Florida – and this time, I was chosen as our school’s leader.

It was an insane opportunity and it really made me into the person I am today.”

Eleven years out of school, the person Marley is today, is resilient, brave, quirky, a leader, and a chatterbox, with a Bachelor and Masters in arts and communications who has found her career niche helping Indigenous creators speak out and tell their stories.

“Growing up in Tasmania, there weren’t any other kids at my school who publicly identified as being Indigenous.

My father’s mob are from the Pilbara in Western Australia but I was born in Alice Springs, my younger sister was born in Darwin, and my brother in Canberra so we moved around a lot before we went to Tasmania to live closer to mum’s family who are non-Indigenous.

Marley at the Yalari Graduation 2013

The history of colonisation in Tassie is really hard core, with massacres everywhere and the Black Line that was literally a human chain of settlers designed to drive Aboriginal people from their traditional lands.

So there was a history of hiding and concealing your identity as an Indigenous person which gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I was raised to be proud of my Indigenous heritage but I was the only one at my school who spoke openly about things like the Dreaming. It wasn’t until we left school that friends told me they were also Indigenous.

The Indigenous community in Tasmania has always been there and always will be. They are very strong on education and standing up for what they believe in – protecting country and language and culture. But they did what they needed to do in order to survive.”

As Marketing Lead for Common Ground, there is a sense of synchronicity that Marley is now working for a not-for-profit that aims to amplify First Nations voices.

“Common Ground is about bringing together First Nations knowledge, culture and truth-telling and sharing these stories to help educate the wider community. Basically, we record old stories in new ways – whether that be by written articles, films, documentaries, photography, audio projects and social media.

We work with storytellers from across the continent. Sometimes they come to us but we also go out to them. Last year, we spent a week up in Cape York on Kuku Yalanji country talking to Elders, local knowledge holders, artists and storytellers as part of our Creators Circle project.

Marley speaking at the 2023 Brisbane Gala Dinner

My role is to promote these creators and their stories on social media through our newsletters and website, so it combines all the elements of art, marketing, communication and outreach that I’ve done in my previous positions.”

Even though it’s 11 years now since Marley was a ‘Yalari kid’, the Yalari connections have continued all the way through her career.

“When I finished Year 12, I did a gap year at Geelong Grammar School through being introduced to the Vice Principal (and now Yalari Director) Charlie Scudamore at the Yalari Melbourne Fundraising Dinner. Common Ground founder, Rona Glynn-McDonald is a fellow Yalari alumna. And almost everywhere I go, I come across the brothers, sisters, cousins of Yalari graduates.

It really is the largest connected network of Indigenous people in this country. We all have that shared experience of being an Indigenous kid at boarding school, living away from home and being given that amazing opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage through education, meaningful careers and a broader life experience.”

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Acknowledgement of Country

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