Casey Donovan - from idol to inspiration for Orange High School students

MEETING HER IDOL: Prisca Hamandishe has her photo taken with Casey Donovan at Orange High School. Photo: STEVE GOSCH                                                                                           0616sgcasey6

MEETING HER IDOL: Prisca Hamandishe has her photo taken with Casey Donovan at Orange High School. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0616sgcasey6

ORANGE High School’s diverse student population has been told to follow their dreams, no matter the barrier.

The students from years 7-12 took part in cultural diversity talks yesterday, which featured Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan, the school’s Aboriginal engagement officer Gavin Bell and Canobolas Local Area Command Aboriginal community liaison officer Glen Sutherland as guest speakers.

Donovan spoke about the hype after she won the singing contest in 2004, including recording the winner’s album in five days.

“And every day I sang [winner’s single] Listen to Your Heart - I couldn’t do it,” she said.

“I’ve always been a big girl and one thing about the Australian media is they like to recognise that - no one ever faulted my voice, it was all about my image.

“It started getting me down and two years later, the music came to a complete stop.”

After working as a receptionist for six months, Donovan’s Aboriginal heritage reignited her passion.

“I started doing singing workshops in remote Aboriginal communities as a singing mentor - those kids brought me back to music,” she said.

The experience made her want to learn the language and about her identity.

“The biggest thing I want to teach you is love yourself, even if people sneer or give you a down comment,” she said.

“The best thing is to go higher while they’re stuck there.”

Mr Bell said it was important for students to know who they were.

“Your cultural background does play a big part in that,” he said.

“Mainly the message is to strive for their goals - they can achieve and fulfil them.”

Mr Sutherland said he emphasised the importance of the students being part of the community, particularly for them to finish school.

Donovan performed three songs and year 11 indigenous student Tahlia Sutherland sang another two.

Members of the Aboriginal community were also in attendance.

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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