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Q&A with TSS Old Boy, Indigenous Liaison Officer, cricketer and proud Ngemba man, Matthew Dalton

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Matthew Dalton from The Southport School and find out about his current projects and plans, his thoughts on National Reconciliation Week and “Being Together: Embracing Joy”, his spiritual journey and his secret skill

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How long have you been a part of The Southport School community and in what roles?

I have been a part of The Southport School (TSS) community since 2017. I started off as a student in Year 10, graduating in 2019. I came to the school from Grafton, but my family lives in Brewarrina in NSW on Ngemba Country. I attended the school on a TSS Foundation scholarship. I returned this year as a staff member in the role of Indigenous Liaison Officer.

How does your role contribute to the Church’s mission?

My role as Indigenous Liaison Officer is important for Reconciliation because I help connect First Nations students with non-Indigenous students and I work with First Nations students so they can connect more with their cultures and Countries.

TSS students at their yarning circle

TSS Indigenous Liaison Officer Matthew Dalton with First Nations boarding students Eli, Jay and Xavier at the TSS yarning circle on 27 April 2022

What projects and activities are you currently working on?

One of the key things I am currently involved in is the launch of the new yarning circle at TSS. Our yarning circle covers a large outdoor area. It contains a firepit in the centre and is bordered by boulders that also serve as seats. Surrounding the boulders is a native garden that was planted by First Nations students with the help of Mr Ken Brown, who is an Indigenous Mentor and Education Consultant. There are 29 students in total at TSS.

What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?

During National Reconciliation Week on 2 June, we will be holding the launch ceremony for our yarning circle. We also have ongoing initiatives planned. For example, I meet with the boys twice a week – on Wednesdays with Ken and on Fridays during a leadership period.

TSS yarning circle

“During National Reconciliation Week on 2 June, we will be holding the launch ceremony for our yarning circle” (Matthew Dalton)

What has been one of the key highlights of your time at TSS in your role so far?

One of the main hands-on activities I do with the boys is a weekly cooking session. One of our shyer students started to open up more during these sessions. It has been great to see him come out of his shell. Every student is special. This student is special because he is courageous. He always gets in and has a go and he is a gifted athlete.

Why is it important to celebrate National Reconciliation Week?

From my perspective it’s important because First Nations peoples can showcase their cultures, including cooking, dance and artworks to non-Indigenous people so they can learn more about our histories and ways.

2022’s Diocesan theme is “Being Together: Embracing Joy”. What are some practical ways that we can celebrate the way differences help to make us whole and the importance of diversity in our unity?

Yarning circles are a great way because there is a place for everyone in a yarning circle. Because the space is a circle shape, everyone speaks on the same level. People feel free to speak up about what’s on their mind regardless of who they are.

Can you tell us a little about your personal spiritual journey?

I feel connected to Ngemba Country seeing traditional landmarks, such as the fish traps that date back thousands of years. The fish traps bring our community together – even though it is a popular tourist site now, my people gather along the river to catch fish. When I go home, I connect with the red dirt, as well as the river. My great-grandfather is from the Ngemba people and their totem is the sand goanna. My great-grandmother is from the Ualaroi people, and her totem is the long-necked turtle.

These totems connect me to people both living and passed and to the land.

Matthew Dalton and great-grandmother in Brewarrina

“My great-grandmother and me at her home in Brewarrina in 2011” (Matthew Dalton)

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

My great-grandmother, who was a Ngemba Country elder. She was born in 1926. She was the family matriarch who kept my large family in Western NSW together. She was a part of the Stolen Generations. After reconnecting with her family, she had eight kids of her own.

What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?

In Year 12 I played in the First XI cricket team at TSS. A few weeks after I bowled the winning wicket against another school’s team, the TSS sport director Mr Steve Baker gave me the match ball. This gesture represents the significance of my cricket journey at the school.

TSS student Matthew Dalton playing cricket

“Jack Sinfield and I representing TSS in a First XI Match played against Brisbane Grammar School in 2019” (Matthew Dalton)

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

When I first moved to boarding school at TSS I was quite nervous, especially given my impressionable age. My mum said that I had nothing to lose and to just give it a crack. She is very supportive.

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

In the afternoons, I go for five-kilometre run along the beach with my headphones in.

If you found yourself on a deserted island, what three things would you choose to have with you?

My Spotify playlist – I couldn’t live without my music. A fishing rod to catch fish to eat. And, a Swiss army knife.

If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?

“Know your Country”. It’s important for First Nations peoples to know their Country so they can relate back to how their ancestors lived. It’s important for non-Indigenous people to know the Country they live and work on so they can learn to respect rather than abuse it.

Where do you do your best thinking?

On my own when I am sitting and watching the sun set or rise.

What is your karaoke go-to song?

‘Follow me’ by Uncle Kracker.

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

I couldn’t go past a good feed at KFC.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

When I hear old country music I think about being back out west in country NSW.

What is your earliest memory?

I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s as a young boy in Grafton. I used to follow my uncle, who was less than 10 years older than me, around. He took me under his wing and included me in footy games and cricket matches and golf.

Aboriginal fish traps in Brewarrina

“My uncle Sebastian and I at the Aboriginal fish traps in Brewarrina in 2013” (Matthew Dalton)

What’s your best childhood memory?

When I was 12 or 13 years of age, my family and I went to a One Day International between Australia and England at the Gabba. It was the game where James Faulkner scored a brilliant 69 runs off 47 balls, including fives sixers, to win the match.

What is your secret skill?

I am ambidextrous. This means that I can throw and kick both right- and left-footed.

What day would you like to re-live and why?

My first day at TSS because at the time I didn’t know how special it was going to be – that one day changed my life and brought me to where I am today.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would that be?

Buffalo chicken wings. Yamba Shores Tavern makes the best Buffalo chicken wings.

What item should you throw out, but can’t bear to part with?

My Gold Coast Titans jersey because they are not going so well this season – but I have to stay loyal.

Editor’s note: National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is held annually between 27 May and 3 June. This year’s theme is “Be Brave. Make Change.” Visit the Reconciliation Australia website for posters and resources and to register your NRW events. Find out about Diocesan NRW events by visiting the anglican focus ‘Events’ page.  

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