Waverley Stanley and Llew Mullins are the benevolent thinkers and humanitarian spirit behind Yalari, a not-for-profit organisation offering scholarships for Indigenous children from regional, rural and remote communities. Together they share a lifetime passion to encourage generational change through education, in the belief that this is what allows us to heal our nation.
Partners in love, life and business, Waverley and Llew share their story with us - from the moment Waverley’s life changed simply from the belief of others, to the most rewarding and significant moments since the inception of Yalari - it’s a beautiful story that is filled with courage, opportunity and love.
The story of Yalari is beautifully rooted in love, resilience and opportunity. Waverley, we would love to hear about all the defining moments in your life that led you to where you are today.
Waverley: Mine is a simple story. I had the support of Mrs Rosemary Bishop, my year 7 teacher who believed in me and did something positive about it. She applied and I was granted a scholarship to Toowoomba Grammar and thus my journey began, filled with opportunity and hope. Mrs Bishop set up a ‘purpose in life’ for me and I am eternally grateful.
I am the eldest of seven children and my education led the way (thanks to Mrs Bishop) for my family to understand the opportunities and belief of others to assist me to be the best I could be.
How did you come up with the name, Yalari?
Waverley: Not long after Llew and I decided we were going to give this idea of offering boarding school scholarships for Indigenous children, we realised we needed a simple name that would encompass it all.
I was up on Palm Island for some other work and met up with my grandfather Blokey Wilson. I described what we were about to do and asked him if he could think of a word in language that we could call our idea. He said one word to me, ‘Yalari’. He nodded his head and smiled, ‘it means child’.
At the heart of your mission is a belief that education is the key to generational change and a brighter future for Indigenous Australians, and our nation. Can you share how Yalari empowers this belief for young indigenous children?
Waverley: Generational change is the constant and gradually healing, empowerment and courage from one generation to the next. It involves everyone’s support and coming together to leave this world in the ‘more capable hands’ of the next generation. Easier said than done.
So yes, we daily support our children to graciously accept the opportunities that their parents and grandparents may not have had, while still holding true in their young hearts that their parents are doing their best every day to support and encourage their children, sometimes in a world they don’t entirely understand.
Education allows us to heal our nation, together.
Can you please share why generational change is important to your mission?
Waverley: Supporting the next generation of leaders, whether that be a family leader, community, professional or the Governor General of Australia, is the only way to establish sustainable positive changes for any group of people.
The people and children themselves must be empowered to confidently make the changes they want for their families and communities and country. Everyone should have the ability to dream big and achieve, whether they be black, white or brindle.
So much of what you do operates around attested love and care for the next generation - where do you think this comes from?
Waverley & Llew: Our parents and ancestors, our shared humanitarian spirit, and our inherent responsibility to do good wherever, and whenever we can.
What does the Rosemary Bishop Indigenous Education Scholarship program entail?
Waverley & Llew: At the indigenous education scholarship program we offer secondary boarding school scholarships for Indigenous children from regional, rural and remote communities to attend some of Australia’s leading boarding schools. And beyond that, we offer extraordinary pastoral support to the students, their families and school staff with our intensive Student Support Program.
Of course, the secondary school scholarship program is named in honour of my primary school teacher, Mrs Rosemary Bishop who organised the secondary school scholarship for me to attend Toowoomba Grammar School from 1980-1984.
Can you share some of the most rewarding moments since the inception of Yalari?
Llew: – There are so many, and I can’t believe I’ve ended up with a vocation that affords me the joy and wonder of seeing, hearing and feeling the best from people every day; whether that’s the children, their families, donors, staff, volunteers, school staff, the whole community of Yalari really. Lucky me.
As for specific rewarding moments, goodness there’s so many. The obvious ones are seeing our students graduate year 12, especially when I know the sometimes, difficult journey they have travelled to get there.
Starting their own little families, supporting younger students, graduating uni and other studies; seeing our students and alumni become their own people and believing in themselves, hearing them speak at our fundraising dinners with such honesty, generosity and gratitude.
Noticing monthly donations in Yalari’s bank account from alumni. Listening to the sense of purpose a donor feels about their contribution to Yalari. The tears of joy from a parent trying to express their gratitude. Our partner school staff who go the extra mile to teach and motivate differently, regardless of anyone noticing them. My friends and family who support Yalari without me asking, in so many different ways.
When a 12 year old girl from the Torres Straits buys me a chocolate in Surfers Paradise with ‘I love you’ on the wrapper or the alumni give up their own time and confidently help us out around the country doing interviews for the new Yalari scholars. When our students become school captain (yes we’ve had a few), vice captains, prefects, sports captains, and student representative council members.
When a retired staff member tells me that working for Yalari was the highlight of her career. When a C in English, becomes a B on the next report card or when observing how a culture slowly shifts in a school. When a 7 year old boy from Arnhem Land introduces me to ‘my best friend who comes from Hong Kong’, and when I hear the students speak their traditional language with each other, and confidently teach others words and songs.
When a volunteer tutor improves the marks in maths for a student and she replies humbly, ‘we do a lot of talking about things, share some stories, and a little bit of maths work’. Or when a year 12 young man from the Kimberley passed me a scribbled note as he graduates from school in Adelaide, saying, ‘you’re my favourite person in the whole world’.
Waverley: Back in 2012 we lost everything in a fire and within two days, we had everything we lost donated by the most generous people, people we did not know. I can assure you, we know them now and they continue to be an integral part of our Yalari family.
Thanks to these people, Yalari rose again. Complete strangers have become, and continue to be family.
How can we support Yalari today, and in future?
Llew: At Yalari we believe it takes a whole community to educate a child, relying on the commitment, support and belief of so many special people who belong to our mob, our Yalari family. Natalie Marie Jewellery has for many years supported us financially on a monthly basis, and now taken a huge step towards telling the world about our life-changing educational holistic program.
We value and are humbled by this belief and look forward to working together for the best outcomes for our Indigenous students – together we will bring about generational change.
There are many ways in which our family support our Indigenous children. By volunteering at events, or tutoring a student who has difficulty in a subject at school, sponsoring a student through their journey on a scholarship, an Indigenous employment strategy for our alumni. The list is endless as we work ‘together as one community’ to bring about generational change.
At NMJ, everything we do is centred around love. We love creating in the name of it, and we love celebrating it. You are partners in love, life and business who are united in making a real difference to the world. Tell us, what do you love most about being able to spend every day together?
Waverley & Llew: As corny as it might sound, I remember a line in a movie, ‘love isn’t two people looking at each other, it’s two people looking in the same direction’. That’s how Waverley and I are, whether we are standing next to each other, or thousands of miles apart, we still have the same focus.
We have very different skills and ways of doing things, so there’s robust discussions at times, but always a knowing that the other has the same ethos of love in our hearts, souls and minds. We have to trust each other, and we do.