An interview with the 2014 Bruce Allen Prize winner

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The late Bruce Allen

WORDS | Ravini Abeysekara

Indigenous student Sophia Kobacker, enrolled in Bachelor of Arts – Media, was awarded the Bruce Allen Prize in recognition of her leadership within the classroom and wider community. We spoke to her about the late Bruce Allen, the award and her aspirations for the future.

Ravini:First, congratulations Sophia on being awarded the Bruce Allen Prize! Could you tell our readers a bit about the late Bruce Allen?

Sophia:Thank you! The late Bruce Allen was lecturing in communication policy here at Macquarie University’s Centre for International Communication at the time of his death. And since 2003, the University has hosted the annual Bruce Allen Memorial Lecture in memory of the broadcaster. Bruce Allen made ground-breaking contributions to the international activities of the Australian Film and Television School (now AFTRS), whose facilities are now used by Macquarie University’s Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies.

R:The Bruce Allen Prize is awarded to an Indigenous student enrolled in a Communication degree who’s displayed leadership and engagement in the classroom and wider community. Why do you think you were awarded the prize and how did you feel receiving it?

S:I was absolutely shocked to learn that I had been awarded the Bruce Allen Prize, because I’ve never won any previous awards, except for sporting activities as a child. I am humbled and honoured to have my work recognised in this way. I was already grateful for the opportunity to work in the area of community storytelling through various media at Macquarie University, but to be awarded the Bruce Allen Prize… there are almost no words to describe how grateful I feel.

The late Bruce Allen
The late Bruce Allen

R:As an Indigenous student how would you describe your experience at Macquarie University? What are your proudest achievements?

S:As someone who dropped out of high school and delayed returning to education due to life circumstances, I was nervous and shy about enrolling in university studies. However, the Elders and staff at Warawara (Department of Indigenous Studies) as well as the Equity and Diversity Unit are incredibly supportive of all Indigenous students, and immediately made me feel at home at Macquarie. I’ve also had the good fortune to work on documentary film projects with some highly creative screen production students. These projects have provided opportunities for volunteer filmmakers from diverse countries and cultural backgrounds to hone their productions skills, while sharing valuable stories with the wider Macquarie community. This aspect of my time at Macquarie has been deeply rewarding.

I feel pride when I see my fellow Indigenous students doing well, and I’m proud to demonstrate that it’s never too late to get a tertiary education. There is this feeling that we all raise each other up when we give it our best. We help those who come after us by showing it’s possible.

R:What are your plans for the future following graduation? What are your career aspirations?

S:I plan to continue my studies at Macquarie University next year. I’d like to do a Master of Research in Media, with an emphasis on Writing. I’ve always been interested in the power of stories and storytelling to bind communities together. I think this is something that Indigenous people all over the world have in common. But the importance of stories is universal. Stories also contribute to the way we see ourselves as people who call this land of Australia home.

R:We now live in a wonderfully dynamic society, rubbing shoulders with people from many different cultural backgrounds, especially here at Macquarie. This gives us a unique global perspective, and the stories we share with each other give us the opportunity to shape our individual, cultural and national identity. Stories are the glue that binds our society together, just as they have for thousands of years for our ancestors. So my career aspirations will always involve helping people share their stories to promote stronger, more vibrant communities.

Hosted by the faculty of Arts and Soft Power and Advocacy Research Centre, the Bruce Allen Memorial lecture will be held on Wednesday 12th November at the Art Gallery (E11A), at 6.30pm.

Addressing soft power and public diplomacy, the memorial lecture will feature guest speaker Ms Maureen Barron, Chief Executive of Screen NSW.

Register online at arts.mq.edu.au/bruceallen
For event related enquiries please email arts.events@mq.edu.au or call 9850 4115.