Gold Awardee, Louise Rait (Camberwell Girls Grammar School) represented the 100 young people being awarded at the Gold Award Ceremony on 12.12.12. She inspired us all with her wise words!


Good Morning Dr Alex Chernov, Governor of Victoria, Mrs Elizabeth Chernov, Mrs Robyn Baillieu, Awards Victoria Vice Chair Mrs Kate Lempriere and Board Members, Awards Victoria CEO Mr Roger McKinnon, fellow Gold Awardees, friends and family. I am so humbled to stand here today representing the 100 Gold Awardees for 2012, amongst whom I am sure the challenges have been vast, the experiences, diverse, and the accomplishments, staggering.

It does seem strange, however, to reflect on the Gold Award as though it forms a neat and single entity, in a way that suggests our experience culminates today, in this ceremony, and that the attainment of a certificate may mark the end of our respective journeys. I suppose the reason this seems so strange is that for such a long time, the Gold Award has been integrated into each and every facet of my life, and its lessons now form an integral part of my identity.

I can still remember the day when I contacted a local Nursing home to see whether they’d take me on board as a volunteer. Having never worked in the domain before, I hoped that I wouldn’t be out of my depth as I became bombarded by long-winded “back in my day…” style stories. Though at first it was difficult to recognise what benefit could be gained from wheelchair volleyball using a balloon, I gradually came to understand that my purpose was not to make world class athletes out of retirees. It didn’t matter what game we chose to play. It didn’t matter what skills I did or didn’t have. It didn’t matter that it took me months to grasp the correct “Bingo master” technique. Above all else, what mattered was that I turned up. I could provide companionship and I could provide loyalty, all of which the residents, too, could provide for me. Equally, this can be said of all our dedicated coordinators, assessors, families and friends. While we are indebted for your hard work, organisation, and countless rides in the car, your just being there has always and will always mean much more than any kind of tangible gift.

But of course, it did take some time for these doubts about my capabilities in Aged Care to subside. I had fallen into the trap in which so many of us can find ourselves: the trap of thinking that we are only good at one thing; that we each have a definitive and rigid skillset. “She’s a debater,” they’ll say,  “He’s an athlete,” she’s a really good singer, he’s really funny, she’s a leader, he’s a team player. These labels can bind us so tightly that we become afraid of straying from them, or more than that, we don’t think we can because we never have before, or we wouldn’t be any good at doing so. But as Gold Awardees, we’ve each taken that leap, at some stage or another, beyond our comfort zone, beyond our skillsets, out into the big, scary and open world of balloon volleyball. We did so willingly, with the aim to explore the unknown, establish and develop friendships and grow as human beings.

As F Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” So let us continue to take each and every opportunity, and to see where these might lead.

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