December 3, 2012
Family and friends of indigenous Year 12 graduates from across the South Burnett gathered at Murgon Town Hall on Thursday night to congratulate school-leavers and hand out awards.
They enjoyed dinner, music and speeches, including a short talk by guest speaker Preston Campbell.
The former Titans rugby league star, who played 14 seasons in the NRL, also presented certificates to the graduates enrolled in the Titans’ “Beyond Tomorow” program. This is a traineeship and mentoring program for school-leavers.
The Year 12s were also joined by Year 10 and 11 students who received Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation (QATSIF) scholarships to assist in their last years at high school.
These scholarships were presented by Aboriginal Elder Ruth Hegarty.
Aunty Ruth is a woman to be reckoned with …
The much-respected Aboriginal elder is a published author, has lectured at university and in the meantime raised eight children. She now has 102 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren…
She’s a survivor of the harsh Cherbourg dormitory system and led the fight for the return of stolen Aboriginal wages.
On Thursday night she presented a dozen students from across the South Burnett with 2013 QATSIF scholarships.
These scholarships are paid from interest earned from the infamous Aborigines’ Welfare Fund which took money from Aboriginal workers’ wages.
“It makes me proud … that part of my money that I had taken off me is helping our children into the future,” she said.
Aunty Ruth told the students that they could do anything they wanted to do.
“You have the opportunities which did not come to us,” she said.
“The struggle for equal rights comes with education. Education brings power.
“Senator Aden Ridgeway said we were on a journey of catch-up. I believe we have just about caught up but it’s up to you guys to go the rest of the way.”
Aunty Ruth, who is 83, said she wanted to live long enough to see Aboriginal kids as doctors and in other professional positions.
“The unfinished business of stolen wages is tragic but it is a legacy that had been handed to you through QATSIF. It is your legacy,” she said.
“Knowledge is power. Don’t ever forget that!”