The Old Paradians’ Association’s 2019 High Tea opened with an acknowledgment to the Wurundjeri people as the original custodians of the land . . . but it was a Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman who commanded a captive audience at Eltham’s Ballara Receptions where the annual event was recently held.

Shelley Ware, Parade’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officer and the AFL’s recently-acknowledged Football Woman of the Year, delivered the keynote address to the Old Paradians and College communities, amongst them members of its sizeable women’s network.

Introduced by Parade’s Deputy Principal Regina Rowan, Shelley captivated the audience with her life story which has its origins in Adelaide and later Ceduna.

“I’m a proud Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman. I’m a long way from home, but I’ve had a pretty wonderful life,” Shelley said, as her powerpoint display featured precious images of her father Bob, mother Jan and brother Aaron.

“I had pretty loving, caring and motivating people in my life and they were my parents. I think good leadership and being a good person go hand in hand.”

Shelley declared Bob and her paternal pa Edmund Ware as “the two greatest role models in my life”. Bob, who died way too young of a heart attack at the age of 50, became the first Aboriginal cadet to graduate as a police officer from the Fort Largs Police Academy. He was also the champion of land rights causes and met the Queen as part of the push for the clean-up of Maralinga land, which from 1956-‘63 was subjected to British nuclear testing.

A vocation in teaching took Shelley to Melbourne a quarter of a century ago, where for the next eighteen years, she taught at Kew Primary School.

“I am now the Aboriginal Educational Officer at Parade College which I’m absolutely loving,” Shelley said. “I moved because I wanted to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. At Kew, due to the demographic, I only saw one Indigenous family come through, so I felt that while I had made my impact on non-Aboriginal children it was time to work with Aboriginal children.”

Shelley’s involvement in the ground-breaking NITV-SBS football program Marngrook and, more recently,’s Colour Of Your Jumper reflects her genuine love for the great Australian game. A committee member of the Reconciliation Action Plan at the Carlton Football Club, Shelley is also a Deakin University lecturer on racism in sport, and spends her spare time mentoring young Indigenous adults in the community.

She is also an ambassador for Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Around the Campfire, and has been a master of ceremonies at the annual The Long Walk events and Dreamtime at the ‘G clashes between Essendon and Richmond.

Closer to home, Shelley has an empathy for the fortunes of the Old Paradians’ Amateur Football Club where her husband Steve recently served as an Assistant Coach, and their son Taj is a current student at Parade.

Shelley covered a number of areas in her High Tea address – from education and sport, through to women’s health and leadership – all big ticket items for her.

She also talked of the formidable women in her life, from her mother Jan through to the committed businesswoman and philanthropist Susan Alberti AC and the AFL’s problem-solving General Manager Social Inclusion and Harmony Tanya Hosch . . . and in doing so offered the following salient advice.

“If you don’t have a mentor who guides you in your decisions and lifts you, then I highly recommend that you find someone . . . whether it’s for a lifetime or a fleeting moment,” Shelley said.

Amongst the women in attendance at the Old Paradians’ Association High Tea was 100 year-old Edna Collins, a mother to five boys all schooled at Parade including Leo who accompanied her to the function. A lifelong Carlton supporter, Edna came armed with the club’s 2019 Indigenous guernsey designed by Shelley and carrying the No.100 on the back . . . and now boasts Shelley’s prized signature.

The Old Paradians’ Association urges all women - including the mothers of students past and present, and current and former teachers or staffers - to simply go to, click on the CONNECT button, and complete the details to join the Association’s ever-growing movement.

Images courtesy Anthony Glatzel