Queensland Australian of the Year

I am truly honoured to be selected to represent Queensland at the Australian of the Year Awards for 2010. First let me acknowledge the tremendous stories of my fellow nominees and I am privileged to be named among other such exceptional Queenslanders.

At times like this it is important I think to remember and honour the places that you have come from. For me that means I am really proud to have grown up in Bundaberg across the road from Millaquin Mill. I am grateful to have such strong parents: and Italian father who taught me to work extremely hard; and an Aboriginal mother from whom I learnt to stand up for myself and others who are being put down.

I want to honour the children, the parents, the Elders and the Council, and the team that worked so hard with me under the ‘strong and smart’ philosophy. From there I was able to stand at the Stronger Smarter Summit in September and declare that the tide of low expectations of Indigenous children in schools had changed. What a ripple they started in Cherbourg!

I honour the love and support of my wife and children and their unwavering support, despite the sacrifices they make.

I am also grateful to QUT, the institution that currently houses our Stronger Smarter Institute; an institution that opened the door to create an opportunity for me to become a teacher at a time when many doors were closed.

As I contemplate the way forward I urge all Australians to suspend their fear and anxiety of those who are different and encourage them to reach out to someone who is different from themselves, spend 45 minutes together, and just have a conversation. Make time to share stories about the things that they love, where they come from, what they dream about, what makes them strong, what they want for their children.

As we do this we realise that in many ways we will realise that our difference may not be as great as we think. As we do this we will acknowledge and embrace the humanity of others. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, when we acknowledge one’s humanity, we acknowledge that regardless of how complex their lives might be, they have the capacity to rise above the challenges they face, which in turn means we must be intent on creating and sustaining an environment and services that enable such capacity. Secondly, we acknowledge one’s human right to a chance. In our country everyone deserves a fair go. We all play a part in turning this from rhetoric to a vibrant reality.

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3 Responses

  1. Having had the privilege to have worked with Chris and his team I can only say that this honour could not have gone to a more well deserving person.
    Chris is a true inspiration to those around him, not only through his leadership, but through his daily life. He lives his beliefs everyday and through this he shows us that we can be Smarter & Stronger. Congratulations Chris

  2. I offer my congratulations to Chris and his family. I have never had the honour of meeting Chris; however I do know his mother and several of his extended family. I am a young Indigenous teacher (1st year) born, raised and educated in Bundaberg, and reading about Chris’s career and achievements gives me great hope for my own future. As a teacher and an Indigenous Australian I commend Chris Sarra for all his hard work and achievements in education. While setting high expectations for Indigenous learners he has simultaneously raised the expectations, standards and value of Indigenous teachers in this country. Congratulations on your nomination.

  3. Good on you i think is great that you are nominated i hope that you get the award

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