Driven by positivity and pride in culture

Ambitious vision: Multi-talented Heywood student Rhaedel Pickett, 16, is set on having a positive impact on her community. Picture: Amy Paton

Ambitious vision: Multi-talented Heywood student Rhaedel Pickett, 16, is set on having a positive impact on her community. Picture: Amy Paton

Rhaedel Pickett, 16, has grand ambitions for her next steps as she approaches her final year of high school.

Ms Pickett, who is in year 11 at Heywood and District Secondary College, recently returned from a trip to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory to act as a mentor as part of Garma 2016.

In part, the trip caused her to reflect on her community and experiences at school in the south-west and think about actions she could take.

After seeing Northern Territory schools with designated safe spaces for Indigenous students, Ms Pickett has also been talking to her school about setting up a well-being room.

Heywood student Rhaedel Pickett

“By the end of year 12, I want to make sure there’s a safe place where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can go and just chill out if they feel unwanted or if stuff is going on at home,” she said.

“I want them to feel like they can come to school, get an education and still be okay.”

Ms Pickett also wants her school to introduce an Indigenous elective for year nine and 10 students to make sure they feel connected to their culture.

“We only learn the language and culture of Indigenous people in the Gunditjmara area until year eight,” she said.

“Then it stops and we don’t hear about language and culture until year 12. Most of the kids up here don’t even know half their life story because they don’t know where they’re from.

“Culture is pretty much what defines your identity.

“Knowing where you’re from and knowing where you belong is the base of you – I believe that.”

Ms Pickett spent the first part of her life growing up in Western Australia.

She has links to the Noongar nation, and moved to Victoria with her family eight years ago.

Her parents placed a strong emphasis on Ms Pickett and her siblings understanding their background, and they return to Western Australia regularly to connect with relatives and take part in traditional practices.

“I get the influence of striving to do my best from dad, and from my mum it’s more about challenging yourself all the time,” she said.

As well as thriving in her academic studies, Ms Pickett is also musically talented. She plays guitar, piano and sings, and she also wants to pursue and share this passion throughout her life.

She’s hoping to attend the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before she follows up on her interest in optometry – which she wants to practise in remote communities.

“My people really drive me to be a leader,” she said “Being Aboriginal – it motivates me.”

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