“I’d always had an interest in doing my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and first started my Bronze Award back in 1999, when I still lived in Scotland. However, my dedication to the process slipped over the years and I never got beyond the first leg of the Bronze adventurous journey (maybe Scotland’s bleak weather put me off!)
Fast forward a few years and while at university in South Australia I came across the Award again while working in the Office for Youth (where the Award is managed in SA).
Timing (and weather?!) was better for me this time around and I commenced my Gold Award in 2006 and completed it in 2008. The projects I completed for my award were heavily focused on my local community, with these including helping to found Friends of the Lower Field River , an environmental group looking after a degraded river in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, and a volunteer aid mission to Uganda where I helped build a house for AIDS orphans.
My involvement in the Award has taken me all across the world. In 2008 I travelled to Mauritius as part of the International Gold Event which brings together Gold Award holders from all around the world, from that event I now have friends and networks in more countries than I can recall! I was also one of the inaugural recipients of the Peter Cruddas Social Innovation Initiative which in 2010 saw me travel to the UK to participate in a leadership course with eight other young award holders. At the end of the program we presented on community leadership in Buckingham Palace.
In 2010 I was honoured to take my association with the Award to the next level when I became a director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia.
When I began my Award my connection to my local community was tenuous. I had moved there a couple of years before when my parents decided to immigrate to Australia and I really didn’t know anyone locally. However, my involvement in Friends of the Lower Field River has been fantastic. Not only has it made a huge positive difference to the local environment, but I have also had the opportunity to build lasting friendships with many of my neighbours across generations.
In November 2010 I was elected to represent the Coastal Ward on the City of Marion. Twelve months later I became the city’s deputy mayor. I couldn’t have won the seat on council without my community involvement spurred by the Award.
Often when I’m out doorknocking or attending community events my involvement with the Award will come up and I always receive a high degree of interest from the person I’m speaking to. It has a high level of recognition in the broader community and its completion seems to be met with respect and a desire to know more. I believe that this is because the Award carries a certain gravitas which has evolved through its fifty years in Australia and its substantial alumni. I look forward to continuing to be part of that journey.”