The Prime Lamb Charity Auction was staged amidst sleet and freezing temperatures during the annual Dubbo Show, but it didn’t affect the generosity of those involved.
A variety of charities will benefit from the $24,850 raised but the one that got the biggest kick-along was the Yalari Foundation, an organisation which assists Aboriginal kids to get an education at some of the nation’s most outstanding boarding schools.
Melissa Fletcher is CEO of Fletcher International but she said if she wasn’t totally committed to that job, which includes her passionate vision to give people a chance at jobs and careers in Dubbo, she’d want to work for Yalari.
“I was lucky to have the most magnificent set of parents; Mum, she’d give you the roots and bring you back to earth, and Dad would give you the wings, so it was a great combination that I’m lucky to have,” Melissa told the large crowd.
“I got to have a really fantastic education – one of my earliest memories was my mum saying to me ‘we’re going to have to be a little bit harder on you because you’re darker than your brother and your sister’ and in Moree Public School I didn’t understand. I did end up realising as I got older what it meant.”
She went to a Brisbane boarding school, the only Aboriginal kid at that time at that school.
“When you get such a great education and a great opportunity and see your people not get the same opportunities it gives you a drive and a purpose, so apart from the family business which I am so driven by and am so proud of what Mum and Dad have done, it’s the Aboriginal side of things – I am a proud Kamilaroi woman,” Melissa said.
“I was in Canberra one day on a course and I knew we were going to Parliament House and I was trying to psych myself up thinking ‘what are they going to teach me, they’re not in the real world’. Anyway, I walked in and I saw all these Aboriginal kids in blazers from all different private schools and I thought ‘oh my goodness, what is this, this is the future’, and my mood absolutely went through the roof because I saw the future and I saw hope, and that was Yalari.”
Melissa got to know Yalari founder Waverley Stanley and says she was captivated with his mantra to ‘Pay It Forward’, and says it’s something she tries to do as well.
“The students are asked to Pay It Forward... They have to raise enough money in the Year 10 cohort to be able to sponsor another kid to give them the same opportunity,” Melissa explained.
She advocated a two pronged approach: firstly to make sure children have an excellent education – something she described as the “preventative measure” – and secondly, the “rebound measure” which is to make sure young offenders get a fair second chance.
“I do what I can at (Fletcher International) to help those kids that come out of juvy that need a chance,” she said.
“We have a terrible problem in regional areas with the ICE epidemic, but I’ll do whatever it takes to give my people a go, (including those who) probably wouldn’t get a go elsewhere.”
Melissa has no doubts where that attitude comes from. “Our team are compassionate, supportive and we’re all about second chances – and that comes from having such amazing parents.
“Compassionate parents never write you off, it takes a lot before they’ll be done with you. (My parents) put up with me and my antics over the years,” Melissa admitted as a way to explain the passion she now has for her family, before adding: “My other passion is Yalari.”