Giving a speech in front of hundreds of people can be nerve-racking, but Ama Gunaratne was poised as she delivered words in fluent Sinhalese at the Minister's Awards for Excellence in Student Achievement.
The Baulkham Hills High School student, 15, was selected from 250 nominees in NSW to receive a Minister's Award for Excellence in Student Achievement - Community Languages, at the University of NSW event on September 30.
"I've been going to North Parramatta Sinhala school since 2000 because when my older sister went I wanted to go too," she said. "I just sat in the class with her, then I officially started learning Sinhalese in 2002.
"This year they made me school captain of my language school. We run the assembly we have every week where we have to get kids to come up and perform. People sing in Sinhalese and do speeches. It's all to improve your Sinhala skills."
Miss Gunaratne has attended the Sunday classes for 11 years and can now speak, read and write Sinhalese fluently.
An interview which focused on Miss Gunaratne's extra-curricular activities — including flute, piano, netball, basketball, SydWest dance group, NSW army cadets and the Duke of Edinburgh bronze award — also helped her win the award.
Miss Gunaratne also does traditional Sri Lankan dancing and has performed at many Sinhalese events, as well as the Orange Blossom Festival and the annual Sri Lankan Cultural Show at Castle Hill.
She said there were many advantages to learning the language.
"You get a better understanding of Sinhalese culture, and when you go to places with your parents and to all the Sinhalese fairs and concerts you can talk to people who weren't born in Australia and you can relate with them," she said.
"It's good to have a common language."