Stars shine at Proudly Public 2021

An event highlighting excellence in public education also marked a return to live performance for the Illawarra’s artists, writes Julee Brienen.

Image: Glad to be back: Southern Stars performers stole the show at the Proudly Public Awards last week. Photo: Julee Brienen.

Students from across Australia had their moment in the spotlight at the Public Education Foundation’s Proudly Public 2021 Awards last week, but none shone brighter than the 40 students from *Southern Stars – The Arena Spectacular.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Proudly Public 2021 Awards was the first time in the past 18 months many of these musicians, vocalists and dancers from southern NSW had performed in front of a live audience.

Vincentia High School vice-captain Harmony Dyer had a dual role as a performer and Master of Ceremonies for the Primary Scholarship Awards.

“It was a huge honour to be asked to take part in the awards ceremony,” Harmony said. “It’s not often that someone from a school out in a regional area gets a chance like this.

“I was nervous but determined to do the best job I could.”

However, it was the performances that evening that Harmony and her fellow Southern Stars Performing Company colleagues were most looking forward to.

“Performing and singing are major passions of mine and a great escape from all the stresses of study and life,” the Year 12 student said.

“When Southern Stars and so many other opportunities to perform last year were taken away due to COVID, I was completely heartbroken.

“Performing at the awards and the prospect of performing at Southern Stars this August is so exciting and like a weight has been lifted.

“We are all just so excited to be back performing.”

Joining Harmony were a number of young performers including Alira Morgan of Kiama High School and Nioka-Rose Blair of Corrimal High School,who presented the Acknowledgment of Country.

“Our connection to Country is powerful, and the Acknowledgment is about bringing everyone together as one group,” Nioka-Rose said.

“It’s a real honour to be invited to perform,” Alira said, “this is a huge event and we don’t always get these kinds of opportunities.”

Dulce Ang, a Year 12 Keira High School student and a first-time Southern Stars performer, sang a mesmerising version of Let it Rain.

“I’m so grateful for this incredible opportunity to perform with students who share the same passion as myself,” Dulce said.

The performances included ensemble items Come Alive and Time to be Awesome and a show-stopping finale of Born to be Brave.

Southern Stars executive producer and Corrimal High School Principal Paul Roger said it was the second year Southern Stars student performers were engaged to provide entertainment for the prestigious PEF Proudly Public Awards ceremony.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to showcase the amazing talents of our students,” said Mr Roger.

“Last year was a very challenging year for the entire performing arts community.

“To be able to provide entertainment for the Proudly Public Awards gives all of these young people a unique opportunity to do what they love the most, in a world class venue like the Town Hall, to an enthusiastic audience.

“The Public Education Foundation and the Proudly Public Awards epitomise the opportunities that students are provided through public education.

“For our young performers to take part in that is very special.”

*Southern Stars is the premier performing arts event in Southern NSW, involving up to 3000 public school students performing to audiences in excess of 12,000 each year at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong.

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