Education Week role connects Taylah to her ancestors

In the town where public education was born, a young woman’s family history is inspiring her future direction. Kerrie O’Connor reports.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the following story contains the name and identifying details of deceased people.
A young Aboriginal woman. A young Aboriginal woman.
Image: Proud Dunghutti student Taylah Iverarch has a clear vision for the future.

Taylah Iverach understands heartbreak only too well but is turning to science for a cure.

The Melville High School captain resolved to become a doctor as a child, when she needed regular surgery for a hand condition and admired the dedication of her medical and nursing team.

Then, at the age of 16, Taylah lost her beloved Nan to heart disease.

“Losing someone so significant to my upbringing crushed me,” Taylah said.

Rather than let “grief consume me”, this proud young woman from the Dunghutti Nation of Kempsey committed herself to becoming a heart specialist.

Her dedication to this goal, her Year 12 studies and for helping her community has resulted in Taylah being awarded the NSW Zonta Achievement Award for a Young Indigenous Woman.

“I wish to come back and provide much-needed medical services to our Aboriginal and non-­Aboriginal people of regional NSW,” Taylah said.

“I want to help other families, so they don’t go through what we did.

“My Nan (Kay Iverach) was a proud Dunghutti/Gumbaynggirr women who shared the role of mother with my mum.

“They raised me together, and I am all that I am because of them.

“I have and will always have two mothers in my life; one still walking beside me and the other now in the Dreamtime.

“My Dreamtime mother/nan was selfless, yet fierce. She was so giving and always there for me and my mum.

“I will always remember her waking me up for school with her cold hands on my face each morning.

“It is these cold hands that warmed my heart and influenced me to follow my dreams to become a heart specialist.”

Kempsey is the birthplace of public education and Taylah today opened the statewide Education Week livestream to 2,200 public schools with an Acknowledgement of Country spoken in the Dunghutti language, accompanied by her great-uncle and Elder Uncle Bob Smith who helped teach her the language he learned as an adult.

Taylah said in the Acknowledgement of Country:

“Nyinanhambu bita, nyinanhambu warra-wa bukul, banduunggaki, mulumun-gu”

Our river, our plains and hills, from the mountains to the coast

“Dunghutti guthun barri dhiyn”

Dunghutti belongs to this Country

“Ngaya guthun barri dhiyn”

I belong to this Country.

It was an important experience, connecting Taylah to her ancestors.

“My great-grandfather was the last Elder to undergo initiation on our Sugarloaf Mountain between 1914-1916,” Taylah said.

Her school is right behind her career goals, with principal Andrew Ryder declaring her “a fine scholar and an exceptional young woman”.

“She is one of the most ambitious, proud and mature students I have been involved with in more than 20 years of teaching.”

The Zonta award recognises the achievements of young women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, currently enrolled in Year 12 or the TAFE equivalent. The criteria for the school nomination is for a young Indigenous woman who has made a marked contribution to the life of her school and community.

“Taylah Iverach has demonstrated outstanding leadership and service both within her school and the wider community,” Zonta said in its award citation.

“She connects deeply to her Indigenous heritage and language and has a clear vision of her career goal of studying medicine and to eventually work in health and community development programs in regional NSW.”

Melville High School is one of 33 Connected Communities’ public schools in NSW.

The Connected Communities strategy is an approach that schools and communities can use to strengthen the educational outcomes for Aboriginal students and all students.

It brings the community closer with the school, brings in Aboriginal culture and allows the school to work with government and non-government groups to help support the education of the school’s students.

A young Aboriginal woman with an older Aboriginal man. A young Aboriginal woman with an older Aboriginal man.
Image: Melville High School captain Taylah Iverarch with Dunghutti Elder Uncle Bob Smith.
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