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The Space Between: A Valedictory Speech by Bella Harris (2018 KDF Scholar)

The Women’s College Valedictory Speech 2021

Isabella Harris

Good Evening Dr Donnelly, Staff, Women’s College Students and Fellow Valedicts,

I am honoured to be here this evening and to co-share this Valedictory speech with Charlotte on behalf of those who will be farewelling Women’s in 2021.

When I left my home town of Mudgee in 2018 to attend The University of Sydney and become a resident of our college, I teetered on a very vulnerable edge-one of sadness, excitement and uncertainty, but above all, one filled with potentiality and opportunity. Very much the same place in which I stand this evening, four years later- giving rise to the thought that perhaps our arrivals and departures from spaces and places, are really just extensions of a moment- or so it seems.

I acknowledge that the spaces I speak of may not resemble the same beginnings for all of you, or the same view from where you are sitting today, so I wish to focus on the common space we all share in our time here at Women’s, that space between your arrival and departure, whether that is to be in coming weeks or in the coming years, it is a journey unique to all Wizzie’s.

The Space Between, as I will call it, is really invisible to your conscious thought, as you understand it, until it is made visible through the compilation of personal anecdotes, friendships, wisdoms, memories, triumphs, and challenges which you have collected from your time here at Women’s and tucked away into the pocket of Nostalgia. These are the fragments of your story here at Women’s, that one day, like me and many others here this evening, you will reflect on with mixed feelings, as you prepare to leave this special place.

And it is a special place. A place of understated purpose; an enabling space of personal and academic growth, of connectedness and friendship.

Perhaps the memories in your pocket, will tell of allnighters {in my case building architecture models} with deliveries of ubereats, friends in your room keeping you company in an effort to reach your deadline, or the quiet conversations on a balcony with a friend, learning about their life and loves away from college. Maybe you have been here long enough to recollect the late night feasts at Isty’s (the next door equivalent of Mr Euro’s), in your pyjamas, after Sal’s on Wednesday nights, followed by the occasional 5.00am Thursday morning fire drill, or the endless rehearsals in Menzie’s for dance, which resulted in victory of The Palladian Cup. Possibly you’ll be forever haunted by the William’s gate alarm or traumatised by the missing late night dinners from the toastroom.

Perhaps it may be the simpler moments which resonate with you, the interactions and gestures with others, the conversations with staff in the corridors or here in the dining hall. Maybe it's the welcoming smile of Trish and her emails/calls to let you know you have unexpected mail, or expected mail in the form of online shopping. Maybe you’ll remember very well the much anticipated Women’s dinners - the envy of all other colleges, that await you at the end of a challenging day.

We are reminded here that our community is not just composed of residents, but of many staff: Dr Donnelly, and the leadership teams past and present, the College Alumnae, our maintenance staff, cleaners and kitchen staff and many others who have all contributed to our time here at Women’s through their generosity, guidance and daily work. To all of you, on behalf of our cohort I say thank you.

The last two years have presented different challenges for each of us, residents, staff and the community of Women’s, as we have navigated the impacts of COVID-19. We may not have been able to be here together on campus, but we have learnt the real value of adaptability in these times. I have no doubt that the experiences I have mentioned will again become part of the 2022 landscape, at Women’s. The resilience and determination to manage online learning during this time is a testament to each of you, whilst the continuation of tutoring, communication and leadership provided by Women’s; a reflection of the commitment and support we are all given in order to achieve success in our disciplinary areas.

There is no doubt that in 2018, I could have anticipated the opportunities the last four years at Women’s has afforded me. As a Katrina Dawson Scholar, alongside diverse college programs such as the Mentoring Program, Academic Assistance Program, college tutoring and The Sibyl Leadership Grant, I have been able to achieve diverse goals, which have exceeded my imagined expectations. As an architecture student, it would be quite amiss of me not to take the opportunity to mention the significance and beauty of our main building and that of the Sibyl Centre, the facilities here, which take part in our everyday lives. Unlike the other colleges within the university, the Federation style of Women’s resembles one more of a home than a college, reflective of the sense of welcome and comfort it provides each of us, as affiliates and residents. There is something quite enchanting about these corridors and the stories they hold of the generations of women, who have created the wonderful narrative, tradition and culture of Women’s and what it represents; and each one of you is a part of this wonderful narrative.

My point is this, that our experiences of Women’s between our arrival and departure, are very personal ones. These are as diverse as each of us is, and that in itself is what makes Women’s so extraordinary. These moments are founded in relationships and community. A place of welcome and inclusivity. My arrival here at Women’s was from a strong regional community and my departure will be from this inspiring and empowering community, that is Women’s, as will yours, one day . The ‘space between’ has bestowed us with the knowledge, skills and strength to navigate whatever lies ahead. So, as we teeter on the very vulnerable edge of potentiality and opportunity… together, let us always be reminded to share our experiences of empowerment authentically, with all women in the next space between, wherever that may be.

Thank you.


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