Education and commitment to putting back into the community were two core values always impressed upon Shenara Smith growing up in and around Roebourne in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Born in Wickham in 1983 to Banyjima father Marshall and Elizabeth Smith, Shenara lived in Roebourne for her first seven years before moving to Mingallutharndo, a horse station run by her family.
She loved growing up and riding the horses, but also loved school, attending Roebourne Primary, Wickham High School until Year 10, and her final years at Karratha District High School.
She first came across the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundations’ Follow the Dream program when she was in Year 9 at Wickham. She along with seven other students from Wickham/Roebourne were chosen for the program.
“The first big thing for me was the access to computers and the internet, followed closely by the extra help from the tutors,” Shenara said. “Everyday we could do our homework at the centre and we were also given additional work if we wanted to stretch ourselves.”
“The hardest thing for any kid is finding the discipline to do their homework and so I found if I didn’t go to the centre it was very hard for me to be disciplined.”
Shenara’s parents were a big part of her support network through high school, working alongside Shenara and her tutors to help her achieve her goals.
“There were quite a lot of kids in the Karratha program and that made doing it enjoyable as you were not always by yourself; it became a social thing as well as a work thing.”
Shenara’s Mum Elizabeth ended up being one of the main mentors for the program in Roebourne for local kids, changing it slightly by allowing anyone to come along regardless of whether they were in the program but as long as the followed the rules. These students were then invited to join the program whenever a position became available.
Shenara’s own achievements at school, along with the inspiration from her Mum and older sister who both went to University, inspired Shenara to look at teaching as a profession. Along with her cousin and sister-in-law, Shenara went to University in Perth and she achieved her Bachelor of Education as well as Australian Indigenous Studies.
After moving back to the Pilbara and teaching for a while, she is now focussing on motherhood with her year-old son Jakeile and partner Kean.
As well as being a Mum, Shenara was appointed Assistant Coordinator of the Gumala Mirnuwarni Education Project in July.
“I work predominantly at the Roebourne centre where I tutor, liaise with the parents and bring the kids from school,” she said. “The kids are great and I really like it.”