Five questions to Sophia Romano: this week on IndigenousX - The Guardian

Five questions to Sophia Romano: this week on IndigenousX - The Guardian

Tell us about who you are, where you are from, and what you do.

My name is Sophia Romano; my family is a real mixed bag. My grandmother, Polly Rose Agale, who was removed from Murray Island during the second world war, met my Italian grandfather Francesco Romano at a dance in far north Queensland in the 1950’s. At first she refused to dance with him because he was too short. They went on to have 6 sons.

My mother’s family, the Sharpes and Chalmers, come from England, Ireland, Scotland and probably Wales too. I grew up in Queensland and for a long time in New Zealand, where my mother had work. Even though I mainly lived with my mum after my parents got divorced and Dad moved back to Australia, even in New Zealand, Mum always instilled a feeling of pride in me about my Torres Strait Islander heritage. I always knew it was important.

We moved back to Australia when I was 13 and I quickly shed my New Zealand accent – it’s not good to be different, especially when you have speeches at school and one of the boys massacres a kiwi fruit in front of you when you’re up front and centre.

I currently work at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS in outreach and recruitment. I work to build the aspiration for higher education in young and not so young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I love gardening and dancing Samba too.

What do you plan to focus on during your week as host of @IndigenousX?

The breadth of aspiration building that UTS and Jumbunna do is extensive. Over hte following week UTS and Jumbunna are hosting two groups of amazing young people. They have given up their holidays to learn, one group for Galuwa, an engineering and IT experience program, and the other for the aspiration initiative, study skills camp conducted by The Aurora Project.

I want to focus on the role education plays in the enabling Indigenous people to take their rightful place in the future of Australia as a nation. I think that to move forward as a nation we need to integrate Indigenous perspectives into all aspects of Australian society so that everyone has the benefit of learning about our cultures.

What issues are you most passionate about and why?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are our future. Without putting too much pressure on them, we as a community need them to lead the way. Education is the best way for us to take control of our own futures. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

I feel that racism doesn’t just go away from having Indigenous people as soap stars and sports people, but from real integrated acceptance of our histories, knowledge and our place in the future of Australia.

Who are your role models, and why?

My role models are everyday people: my Mum who worked hard her whole life so my sister and I wouldn’t want for anything. She also dealt with her sister’s sudden death from a brain aneurysm, and the diagnosis of her mother’s terminal cancer the week after the funeral, with a strong quiet grace.

Then, the following year, she had her own struggle with breast cancer. We look back and laugh now – like the time she was dog sitting my crazy dog Pickle, who ran away with her prosthetic boob and growled and evaded capture when she tried to get it back.

Another of my role models is another strong woman, my boss. She has faced some tough situations in her life and our lives together in the workplace as well. Yet she carries on and continues to give her all for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at UTS. She is always there for us as staff to go to with problems whether they are work related or personal.

What are your hopes for the future?

In the future I hope to live in an amazing house with Florence Broadhurst wallpaper. I want a rooftop garden where I can grow food and flowers and native shrubs. My own personal wilderness. But it needs to have a self-watering system because I feel very guilty when I kill plants.

I will return to study (at a reasonable price) and become a landscape architect. I also want to shed my body image problems and perform Samba at least once.

I hope for a country that is accepting and honouring of Indigenous people and refugees and recognises the contribution made by all people and the richness it adds to the national fabric of Australia.

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