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School of Communications and Arts, WAAPA and Kurongkurl Katitjin - Graduate Speaker

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Miss Elizabeth Aitken

When I was asked to speak today my initial reaction was one of sheer dread. Funnily enough this feeling hit me again this morning. I thought, ‘what do I know? Who am I to speak for all these people? No, pull yourself together, it's five minutes, piece of cake’. Oh how wrong I was… I looked into my arsenal: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat. Nothing. The truth is, I can't speak for everyone graduating today, so instead I offer you an insight into my lessons, and experiences at Edith Cowan University.

During my time at ECU assessments have come and gone, exams have brought times of stress, assignments, (including this one) have been completed at the 11th hour. Pieces of music have been memorised, chords have been analysed, chapters summarised, rapping abilities… severely compromised. Upon leaving university, these are not the skills that I am most grateful for. What my studies have really taught me is to be resilient, to seek opportunity and to be responsible for my education.

Resilience; the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. As students of 'Communication and Arts' I assume that most of you, at some point or another, have endured this kind of conversation. "Ohhhhh you're an actor?” “Ohhhhh you're a musician?” “Ohhhhh you're doing ARTS?!?” "So what are you going to DO when you finish uni? Can you really make a living out of that?” Although there have been times that I've been filled with doubt, or times that my answer has been a very meek 'I don't know', what I have gained from being challenged by questions like these is conviction and confidence in my choices. For many of us, we have gone against the odds, followed our passion, not our peers, and in choosing to do so have had to stand up for our choices and for our dreams. We have had to prove that it is possible for us to do what we love, every single day. It is this conversation that has made me resilient.

Opportunity; a time or set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. Have you ever felt like everyone is getting something and you're not? While studying at WAAPA many of my peers were starting bands, writing musicals, all sorts of wonderful things. Which was all great, until I asked myself, why wasn't I doing that? They were all picking apples off the tree and I started to worry there would soon be none left for me. Then, one of my 'oh so talented' lecturers turned my head and I saw that there were other orchards. I could pick berries! I didn't even know that berries existed! What I'm trying to say is that I saw that I could create my own dream, forge my own pathway, invent my own fruit! So, with the support of my tutors, and inspiration from my peers, I did! I created new adventures. I toured WA, I went to the other side of the world to study, I travelled and I got jobs doing things I am in no way qualified to do but LOVE. I found opportunity. It didn't find me. This last definition is my favourite, and it's from the Oxford Dictionary so you know it's legit.

Education; an enlightening experience. In my first week at WAAPA, as an over enthusiastic, loud percussionist (not a lot has changed), a wise older student gave me this piece advice; "Your career as a musician starts now. In fact, it's already begun." This is now the advice I like to pass on to others. We are the ones that are responsible for our education and our success from as soon as we begin. No two people completing the same degree will leave with the same body of knowledge because it is not what you choose to study that counts, it's what you choose to learn.

On this note, I leave you with a quote from WB Yeats, "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."

Well ECU, you lit my fire. For the rest of you I hope that at some point in your studies the fire has been lit, for now we have the privilege and pleasure of keeping it alight for the rest of our lives.

To the graduating of class of 2013, congratulations. We did it!

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