A Goreng Nyoongar woman who has dedicated her life to the education of Aboriginal children has been awarded the 2021 Sealin Garlett Award for Community Leadership.
Roni Forrest, who recently retired from her role as the coordinator of the Future Footprints Program at the Association of Independent Schools WA, was announced as the winner of the award at a special ceremony yesterday afternoon. Ms Forrest was unfortunately unable to attend due to illness.
Fremantle Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan said for decades Ms Forrest had worked tirelessly with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their schools and communities to ensure they had every opportunity to succeed in education.
“In her role at the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia, Roni participated in the daily in the life of schools in Fremantle and across the state by making herself available to assist with students and staff,” Cr Sullivan said.
“Roni offered everyday pastoral and cultural support while also facilitating huge events like the Career Expo at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University.
“She inspired students to attend the World Indigenous Peoples Conference in Education in Hawaii in 2014 and Canada in 2017, and also attended and presented at the conferences highlighting the students’ achievements.
“She has educated young and older students about culture and truth telling, and her work has seen students achieve High School Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and Doctorates.
“Roni’s work to recognise massacre sites on her home country is also a massive achievement, particularly the leadership she has provided in establishing the Kukenarup memorial.
“As a role model and a leader, Roni has been a positive influence in countless young lives, and her recognition through the Sealin Garlett Award is thoroughly deserved.”
A high commendation was presented Marissa Verma, who shares her lifetime experiences and Nyoongar culture as a guide with tour company Bindi Bindi Dreaming.
The award honours the late Reverend Sealin Garlett, who was an outstanding contributor towards reconciliation both to the Nyoongar community and non-Aboriginal community of Perth.
The City of Fremantle created the award in collaboration with the Walyalup Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group to celebrate the achievements of a community member who has demonstrated outstanding contributions in reconciliation and community leadership.
To be eligible for the Sealin Garlett Award, the person nominated must be of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent; connected to the City of Fremantle by volunteering, residing, working or studying within the City; and have demonstrated achievements in community leadership and reconciliation.