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A leader for the future

AIEF Alum and Tertiary Scholar Jola Cumming was proud to deliver the Acknowledgement of Country at the Future Women 'Off the Record' event featuring former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and waters on which we are meeting today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I do so under responsibility as a Butchulla and Gawara Salt Water Murri Woman and my skin name is Yakamarinya (Yakamarrrinyaa).

My name is Jola Cumming and this is my story. At four years old, I was placed into the foster care system. The foster care system was an extremely challenging environment due to mental, emotional and physical abuse suffered over the course of 10 years. I was given an opportunity which, in my eyes, was the key to breaking free from the systemic and spiralling cycle of not finishing high school, ending up homeless and ending up in the criminal justice system.

In 2011, I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship by AIEF to attend St Vincent's College, Potts Point. The school gave me amazing friends, who I was soon to call my family, something I had never had. The school taught me discipline, routine and it gave me the right support to become a leader within my own life and for future generations. However, little did I know this opportunity would only be the beginning of my academic success.

I have worked incredibly hard over the years and from that I am the first from my family to graduate from university. I graduated with a Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Sydney.

Due to my experiences, I have developed a greater appreciation for education and learning and this has inspired my next career path. I am now studying and have just completed my first year of a Masters of PE teaching at the University of Sydney. I am now a positive mentor for those who are in my shoes, an Aboriginal girl in the foster system, young women at St Vincent's College, and working with young, prospective Aboriginal students at The University of Sydney.

I am excited for what's to come and look forward to now being on the other side of the table as a teacher, sharing the importance of education and how it truly can change your life.

As an AIEF Alum and Tertiary Scholarship recipient I would love to thank Future Women for their support of AIEF, for if it was not for AIEF I would not know where I would be today.

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In the fight against Indigenous disadvantage, the only long-term solution is to deal with the causes. And the most effective way of doing that, is education.

Sir William Deane AC KBE
Former Governor-General of Australia


The AIEF Scholarship Program and the AIEF Pathways Program are supported by the Australian Government in collaboration with individual, philanthropic and corporate supporters from the private sector.