Roni Forrest - Association of Independent Schools WA
Please note Roni Forrest works externally to the Commissioner's office.
Your job title
Coordinator - Future Footprints Program, Association of Independent Schools WA
Minang Ngadju from south coast WA
Outline your background and role in the field you work in
I have been involved in education for many years. I am now the Program Coordinator for a boarding schools support program Future Footprints. I work with students boarding in metropolitan boarding schools who come from regional and remote communities. The primary role of the program is to increase attendance and retention, grade progression and attainment to Year 12 of Aboriginal students. Additionally to improve readiness for transition from school to further education and training or employment.
Why do you do the work that you do?
I love working with young people. I have never met a young person who is not easy to work with…met many who come with challenges but a little bit of love support and guidance can see them on the right track.
What do you most enjoy about your field?
Meeting young people and families from remote, regional and urban communities. There are such diverse families with such different lifestyles.
Working and meeting staff and people in the Independent Schools sector amazing!
Who or what inspired you to do the work that you do?
I love working with young people so that was a key as I wanted to advocate on their behalf and become a voice for them.
What challenges have you overcome to be successful in your chosen area?
Having to code switch is crucial for me working in this area. There is such diversity in the people I deal with.
What does good leadership look like?
To me having good leadership means you have to be able to be confident to build relationships and networks.
You need to lead with integrity ie walk the walk and talk the talk.
I think if you make mistakes along the way learn from them and move on and gain strength from the experience.
Good leaders listen and communicate well and be open to new ways of doing things.
What do you feel are your strengths as a leader?
I am an excellent communicator and networker. I have very strong networks all over Australia and in particular regional remote and urban communities.
I am also very strong culturally having grown up as a bush kid knowing language, cultural knowledge and my heritage.
Share a story that you think demonstrates or defined your leadership/leadership journey
When I was younger I was never given any advice or support I just found my own path. One thing I do remember was I was in turmoil about my identity. Having lived in a small South West Country town in the 60’s was not easy in terms of racism and exclusion. I realised early on that it was up to me to always preserve my own unique cultural identity – to be proud of it – be proud of me – as there is no one quite like me! And that’s got me everywhere! I am a very strong cultural woman - it’s the essence of us as Aboriginal people! Knowing where I come from allows me to know where I am going!
Your advice to young people
Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way no matter how small it is. Embrace education. My messages is to never stop dreaming and never give up on your dreams. Never think for a moment that you haven’t got the power to change your own life circumstances
What would your words of encouragement be to another young person interested in your area of work?
Take every opportunity and never underestimate yourself – be strong watch and learn. You can have anything you want if you work hard and you create positive relationships and make good choices. Always try to be respectful and humble and most of all be responsible for your own actions.
Is there any other advice you would like to share with young people about leadership?
I have one last word of advice to offer and that is to Read - Read & Read - Read everything you can and become educated. Never stop reading.
As Nelson Mandela said: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.