Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Having been invited to an RUOK charity function this week, I heard AFL footy legend Shaun Hart speak about the importance of not limiting our sense of self-worth to what we do, or how good we are at it. I mean sure, when you’re at the top of your game it’s easy to think that it will always be this way, but what happens when you drop the ball? If your game is off, does that mean you are? Are you any less of a person than you were the day before? What if you’ve never achieved anything that meets your expectation of how many define success… solely through the measure of wealth… does that make you less worthwhile than someone that you think has? Big questions this week, and hopefully, some big answers. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know how much Dr Nelson’s speech a few weeks ago resonated with my own core beliefs, as he talked about his early influences and about the importance of always remembering where we come from. In a period when so much is changing and so many big decisions are being made that will echo through the sands of time, will they remember our achievements, and how many goals we kicked? Or more importantly, will they remember where we came from, the legacy of the Anzacs, the lives we touched and the way we tried to leave the world a little better than we found it. Will they remember us this way?
An incredible woman that I salute today is one of the outstanding illustrators of Remember and a veteran of the British army. Born in Cambridgeshire, England, Gemma Doherty studied History of Art and English Literature at the University of York. After graduating she moved to London to join the British Army and performed at a variety of State events in Her Majesty’s Grenadier Guards Band and the Honourable Artillery Company Band, including Trooping the Colour, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and an Anzac Day parade in Sydney. During her 10-year military service, Gemma’s interest in ceremonial art flourished and she took the opportunity to paint the military subjects she saw around her. ‘I am always seeking new artistic challenges and I feel that my art and own experiences as an army veteran can help to deliver a very important message of remembrance.’ Being published in Remember and working as a class teacher and music teacher in the UK, Gemma is most certainly going to leave the world a little better than she found it.
Another wonderful artist and illustrator of Remember, Ynja Bjornsson also has a strong sense of community. As an avid reader she is keen to foster an interest in young people to have a love for books. She makes ‘Reading Snakes’ from upcycled men’s ties for the local school library, and younger readers borrow a book and snake with the purpose to read to it for at least ten minutes every day. Ynja is also passionate about art and creativity and has spent many years making artworks privately as well as for community projects with students at Oatley Public School. Most of these paintings have been sold at auction to raise funds for the school ground improvements. Aside from all these fantastic projects, Ynja is a journalist of 25 years having worked in regional Queensland, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Brisbane and Malaysia. She also works as a mentor and facilitator partnering business with education. Talk about inspiring. Her illustration in Remember was created with the finger prints of 535 Australian school students.
I am so proud to have these two incredible women on the team, both whom are exemplary models of what we mean when we say, ‘Let’s increase our connections and be together more.’ Because it is so important to see beyond our inner worlds, look beyond our perceived boundaries, and share life’s experiences with those around us. It helps us to feel more connected, which helps us find a sense of belonging. When our lives have purpose and we feel valued in the contributions we make in our world, it is harder to feel despondent or like a burden on others. In hope of a world where everyone is ok, I think it’s worth working towards, through fostering dedication, mateship, and courage every day. The Anzac spirit inspires a call from the diggers to ‘Remember us this way!’
That spirit survives amongst those of us who remember and follow their lead, like the people at the Armidale Ex-Services Memorial Club, or Armidale Servies Club. With a history spanning back to the end of WWI, seeing the need to provide support for returning servicemembers and their families, a group of like-minded ordinary people began the club in the Soldiers Room at the Literary Institute. Through years of community involvement and relocations, rebuilding and renovations, the beautiful space that is the Armidale Servies Club now stands proudly as a hub for vibrant community engagement. I can’t wait to sign books there on Friday 1st November with two other illustrators from Remember, Emma, who I introduced last week, and Kathy, who I’ll write about in a few more weeks’ time. The fantastic team at the Armidale Servies Club, headed by the tremendous Debbie, are putting on a beautiful event and charity auction, with Helping Hand Group in attendance and the wonderfully charismatic Xanthe McAteer from 100.3FM as MC for the night. I’m super excited.
The community support for Remember continues to brighten my heart. Because of everyone coming together in support of our soldiers, past and present, and their families, getting behind this book, it is going to make more of a difference than I could ever have imagined. From the stories that inspired me, to the people who first helped this come to fruition, one thing is certain… I couldn’t have done it alone. It might be my book, but it’s the diggers stories, and so many people now share in its legacy.
In the spirit of connectedness and courage, I want to ask everyone to be more connected today. Ask the question, RUOK? Listen, without judgement, and check in on those around you, especially the ones who you know are a little isolated... Even if they are always wearing a smile. Say g’day. And if you’re worried, reach out for professional help. Great resources are available on the RUOK website.
If you or someone you know is feeling a little broken, remember that even broken crayons can fill a page with magnificent colour. When we work together, the possibilities are endless. We can make a difference and shine brightly in the world. And I hope, that they remember us this way.
You are enough. Always.