Positive recognition works

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.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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