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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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9 December, 2020

Generational trifecta of Browning leadership

LONGREACH State High School student, Aiyahna Browning, was recently announced as one of two school captains for 2021, making her the third consecutive generation elected to the leadership role.

By Hamish Hart

Aiyahna Browning follows in the footsteps of her mother, Jodie, and grandfather, Ian Harris, as she eagerly awaits representing LSHS in 2021.

The Browning’s lineage of school captains began in 1969 when Aiyahna’s grandfather, Ian Harris, was elected the role. Nearly 25 years later, Jodie Browning, mother of Aiyahna, followed in Ian’s footsteps by taking on the captaincy position in 1993.

Aiyahna was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease earlier this year where, for an eight-week period, she was unable to consume foods and had to be delivered liquid nutrition through a nasal-gastric tube.

During her election speech in front of teachers, parents and students, Aiyahna spoke of this experience and how it inspired her to spread the message of resilience and perseverance across LSHS.

“The reason this is so important to me is because earlier this year, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that will influence the rest of my life,” she said during her speech. “You may have seen me walking around school with a feeding tube in my nose.

“My illness forced me to confront my vulnerability, and it gave me the opportunity to understand what true leadership is really about. It’s about graciousness, perseverance, and resilience in the face of adversity and hardship.”

Jodie Browning said she was proud of her daughter for putting her hand up for a leadership role she had taken on more than 25 years ago, and was immensely proud that other candidates also promoted the message of achieving their aspirations.

“The role I took on was very similar to Aiyahna’s,” Ms Browning said. “We coordinated fundraisers, events and represented the student body.

“Aiyahna wasn’t sure whether she should run. She’s not one of the most popular kids at school and has had struggles with illness this year.

"I was proud of her for running so she can show people out here that there are opportunities in our little town and that they don’t need to leave to find them.

“I took wonderful messages away from all of the student’s speeches. They all spoke exceptionally well.

“Aiyahna’s message was that you can do whatever you want. I was really humbled that students listened and voted for that message. Even if she wasn’t elected, it wouldn’t have mattered because her speech was so lovely.”

Back in the 1960s, choosing school captains was not left in the hands of students, but rather the teachers who chose the most capable and worthy Year 12 scholar to represent LSHS.

“There were no elections back then,” Ian Harris said. “Teachers basically selected who would be the best leader of the school.

Mr Harris said it was surreal when Jodie received her leadership badge all those years ago, but being able to witness his granddaughter earn hers 50 years following his induction was unbelievable.

“It was surreal when Jodie became school captain, and even more so now with Aiyahna,” he said. “To have three generations of leaders is incredible.

“The role back then was totally different. It was more of a representative role. I can’t remember having to do half the stuff that Aiyahna will have to do such as speeches and presentations.

“I don’t know if being school captain meant a great deal to anyone back then, but it meant a lot to me.”

Aiyahna will represent LSHS alongside fellow school captain, Seth Hunt, in 2021 where she aims to promote the message of inclusion among her cohort.

“After hearing that my mum and grandad were school captains, I thought I’d give it a go,” she said. “We hadn’t talked much about it and they never put any pressure on me for getting it. It’s something I wanted to do on my own.

“I wanted the opportunity to lead the school and to mentor younger students, and show them that there are opportunities out here. I want everybody to feel included, to feel as though they can do anything if they put the work in.”

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