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Zanette Clements – Barnardos Champion

My name is Zanette Clements and I identify as a proud Kamilaroi woman. I live and work in the place where I was born, Cobar NSW. I’ve been with Barnardos for 15 years and I’m the Team Leader for Reconnect Western NSW.

To me, NAIDOC Week is an important celebration and an acknowledgment of our culture, our ancestors, our elders, family and community, the past, present, and future, and our achievements. When I was 17 or 18, I won a local NAIDOC award in Albury where I spent my formative years. My award was for my contribution to the performing arts by a young person, and I was just so proud to be there with my Mum. I remember, in that moment I felt validated and proud to be me, and proud to be a young Aboriginal woman who was acknowledged for her contribution and talent. I love the fact that communities across our great country celebrate the achievements of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during NAIDOC Week. It shows us, and it shows me, that there are some truly amazing and talented First Nations people who do so much for their community, and to have their contributions recognised and acknowledged is so very important.

Prior to becoming a youth worker, I was a circus artist. I started out as an 8-year-old at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus where I spent 11 years, before entering the wider professional circus and physical theatre industry. I became really interested in the social benefits of circus and how it was a connector and an outlet for people who were from vulnerable and diverse backgrounds; it was a creative support system of sorts, and I saw the benefits firsthand. I loved how I could connect with my students through the circus arts and learn about their lives and their challenges. Seeing them achieve their goals, supporting them in their skills development, and helping them to become resilient and confident young people, was incredibly rewarding and special to be a part of. To this day, Circus skills workshops are the tool I have used most in my work with youth, it’s just an amazing way to connect with young people and to build positive and lasting relationships with them, it just works!

I hope that all the young people I have worked with over the years will continue to grow and develop, find their passion, and purpose, and feel happy, excited, and proud about who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. I hope that I can provide them with tools that they can continue to use as they grow, and most of all, I hope that they realise how so very special and important they are.

My hope for the future is to continue to make a difference and continue to learn and evolve. I am keen to learn more about working with Aboriginal children, youth, and families; as an Aboriginal person, sometimes there is the assumption that we already have those skills, but for me personally, this is a space I would love to learn more about and be involved in. There is always so much to learn.

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