Olympic Gold medalist Nova Peris is inspiring young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with her mentoring program, The Nova Peris Girls Academy. Here she talks about how recognition plays a vital role in motivating the students involved in the program.

Positive recognition is a huge part of the programs that we run at the Nova Peris Girls Academy. We focus on the things that the girls are doing well in and it’s allowing them to really flourish and excel in their chosen areas—whether it’s sport, literacy or public speaking—we’re really seeing the benefits of positive recognition.

One of the great things about the Academy is that our mentors have the chance to give students that one-on-one attention that teachers aren’t necessarily able to provide. Our programs are also ingrained with the curriculum and encourage overall positive health and wellbeing which is having a flow on effect to the girls’ family—and their community.

The pilot program at St John’s Catholic School in Darwin— the same school that I went to—is already becoming popular among rural and remote communities. We have another 25 girls starting the Academy in term two, so it really is proof that if you invest in a girl, you also invest in a whole community.

The Academy also focuses on building strong relationships between our students and their mentors. For me, positive relationships are based on mutual trust, respect, understanding and compassion—and that’s also what reconciliation is all about.

So this National Reconciliation Week, I’m encouraging all Australians to think about the power that positive recognition can have on our young people. If we teach them to believe in their dreams and have a go, success will surely follow.