UOW alumna, Carly McDonald, has made waves since graduating from UOW Bega. Now working as a Youth Care Coordinator at Headspace, Carly decided it was about time the South Coast celebrated its diversity with an inclusive event, showcasing the LGBTI+ community.
Having grown up in the Bega Valley and going travelling after high school, she found herself searching for answers.
“I was exhausted. I had spent so long fighting against the system, saying no to institutions,” Carly says.
At 28, she moved back to the Bega Valley and found herself feeling envious of the stability and motivation that people were finding within their studies and careers. Carly began her Bachelor of Arts at UOW Bega and graduated in 2018 with a major in Sociology, allowing her to continue to ask questions, connect with others and thrive in what she describes as a “thought provoking environment.”
Carly began working in Community Engagement as a Youth Care Coordinator at Headspace in Bega, forging meaningful and supportive relationships with South Coast youth. She wanted to create a Mardi Gras style event for all ages - something she would have loved to see when she was growing up in the area. From here, Rainbow Wave Festival (RWF) was born, showcasing local artists and performers and providing a platform for expression. Carly credits the festival as one of her proudest achievements since graduating from UOW:
“Proudly supported by Headspace Bega, RWF was a rural pride event in the Bega Valley, celebrating diversity and shining a light on our amazing LGBTI+ community.
From humble beginnings of small meetings, Rainbow Wave grew into an army of local volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, coming together to create a space to celebrate diversity and to raise money for local LGBTI+ social support groups. The festival was sure to be a success with Carly’s contagious enthusiasm and energy leading the way.
“The skills I learnt during my time at university were invaluable in the roll out of this event, these included; the ability to articulate objectives, work cohesively within a team and persevering even when the outcome you desire appears out of reach," Carly explains.
Rainbow Wave Festival 2019 was a huge success! The festival was awarded the Mental Health Matters Rainbow Inclusion Award- Sponsored by ACON. The awards recognise mental health programs, projects or initiatives that demonstrate commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of sex, sexuality, and/or gender diverse (LGBTIQA+) people.
Like many events, COVID-19 halted plans for Rainbow Wave in 2020. Going forward, the intention is to create an annual event, bringing the community together, celebrating diversity, and becoming a catalyst for change in rural communities far and wide.