Dirrum Dirrum speakers challenge and inspire

Dirrum Dirrum speakers (L-R) Shea Spierings, Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Jessica Watson, Shifra Joseph and Megan Mitchell

Dirrum Dirrum speakers (L-R) Shea Spierings, Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Jessica Watson, Shifra Joseph and Megan Mitchell

By Communications Manager Mick Bunworth

The Senior School lecture theatre was abuzz with words, ideas and questions on Saturday, as the Dirrum Dirrum 2016 Festival once again brought an incredible roster of inspiring speakers to Canberra.

The day also provided the opportunity for students to tell their own stories of inspiration and connection from recent trips to Timor-Leste and Gamilaraay country, and other smaller, but no less important challenges, that had occurred during everyday life in Canberra.

It was a jam-packed program put together by students and Father Richard Browning*. This week?s coverage will focus on the speakers from Session 1. We?ll feature the Session 2 speakers in next week?s Bulletin.

Timor-Leste?s first First Lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmão, gave those in attendance some lessons from her own journey, so intertwined with that of a fledgling nation ?rebuilt from the ashes of destruction and violence.?

She said the Timorese people had taught her many lessons: embrace risk, let passion guide you, preach what you practice, make yourself redundant and give the job to a woman.


Shifra Joseph
recounted the clear memory of experiencing racism from the mother of a playmate as a small girl. It was a powerful motivator for her subsequent work with multi-faith organisations and her founding of the Ask Me Anything workshops for schools, designed to give students the freedom to ask the difficult questions that highlight our differences. ?To help solve prejudice, you need to be aware of it and you can?t be aware of it if you don?t talk about it,? Shifra said.

Shea Spierings
Youth advocate and Australia?s 2015 youth delegate to the United Nations, Shea Spierings shared his life journey which included stints in and out of juvenile detention, school, working as an apprentice chef and as a nightclub bouncer before getting into a TAFE course which led to university. His story proves you can ultimately achieve success the hard way, but why should it be so hard, especially for young people from a disadvantaged background?

Through his work, Shea is dedicating himself to ensuring it is not so difficult for those that follow him. He recounted a young person asking him, ?when did you realise your voice matters?? The 26-year-old said it might have been when he was invited to dinner and was announced to Prince Charles at Admiralty House when he was 25. But he said this was too late for this realisation to hit him. He urged those in the room working with young people to empower them with the knowledge their voice matters as early as possible.

Speaker Megan Mitchell

In a week when Australia had been shocked by the stories and images of how the Northern Territory treats young people in detention, National Children?s Commissioner Megan Mitchell spoke of the importance of protecting the rights of children at every level of society.

Echoing Shea Spierings? message, Megan said young people?s voices do matter and society needs to ensure it provides platforms for those voices to be heard.



Vox choir singing "Sailing Away"In a twist of timing, Jessica Watson?s talk at Dirrum Dirrum came at the end of the week when the College had also been visited by Composer in Residence Paul Jarman.

Radford?s Vox choir performed a beautiful rendition of Paul Jarman?s Sailing Home, the song he wrote as a tribute to Jessica?s feat of being the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted at the age of 16.


Jessica thanked the choir and conductor Joel Copeland for the beautiful introduction, before telling the story behind the song.

She spoke about resilience and persistence. On a test run, when her small boat Ella?s Pink Lady ran into a 63,000 tonne cargo ship, breaking her mast, it was ironically that moment when Jessica realised she was going to achieve her goal.

And the secret to the long journey, surrounded for months by nothing but open sea? ?Don?t think too far ahead!?

Jessica played video of the rolling mountainous waves that tossed her boat about, but that she somehow managed to survive, and the audience was invited to imagine the fear they would feel in this perilous situation.

But during this storm, Jessica said she had an epiphany. ?Fear is a choice? and she was then able to control her fear.

Her closing message to those at Dirrum Dirrum 2016 who might be harbouring their own goals and dreams? ?Take the first step, make it happen!?

* Fr Richard Browning pays tribute to the Dirrum Dirrum team: Aisha Strutt, Lorna Arkell, Brooke Elizabeth Hatton, Amber Young, Elysse Williams, Ruby Cooper, Dilanga Jayawardena, Sanjog Chintalaphani, Julia Cooper, James Lindesay, Cameron Sambridge, Raina Thomson and Jibran Habib.

He also thanks Charuni Weerasooriya, and the P&F and Collegians Associations for their support.

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