Year 7 student Ashleigh Kanoa is a proud Gunditjamara and Wadawurrung girl and was recently nominated for the City of Ballarat Youth Awards – in the Positive leader category. For the last few years, Ashleigh volunteers as part of an Indigenous Youth Group, which is run by the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BADAC). As part of this youth group Ashleigh said that she actively supports the younger members of the group to help them feel at ease and relaxed.

“We learn about Aboriginal heritage and culture, participate in activities, support each other and recently we have started a dance group (Baarlinjan Dancers) that performed at the Town Hall and BADAC Open Day during NAIDOC week,” she said.

The group meets weekly after school, and there are approximately 20 students in the group from a range of ages and backgrounds.

“It is an honour to be nominated for this award, and if I don’t win, it is still really exciting to be recognised in this way.”

Earlier this year, Ashleigh was also recognised for her advocacy and positivity when she was awarded the Miss Naidoc honour, through BADAC for 2022.

‘I received a sash, and I proudly wore it during NAIDOC week where I raised the flag at BADAC and participated in the NAIDOC community awards” she said. “Being this year’s Miss NAIDOC means that I have been recognised by my peers as being a leader in my community.”

As part of Ashleigh’s commitment and passion to her Aboriginal culture, earlier this year she wrote a letter to the Damascus College Principal, asking why the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were not flying next to the Australian flag. The principal asked Ashleigh to be part of the College’s Reconciliation Action Plan, where they could discuss this specific action along with other items that focus on reconciliation.

Ashleigh now meets monthly with staff and community to develop the first Reconciliation Action Plan for Damascus College.

The City of Ballarat Youth Awards will be held at the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts on Friday 12 August.