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Strong support network key to success

Name: Ellen Pike
Age: 23
Graduated: Year 12, 2013, St Vincent’s College, Potts Point
Studied: Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Paramedicine at the Australian Catholic University
From: Dubbo, NSW

A proud Wiradjuri woman from western NSW, Ellen always wanted to go to boarding school.

“I always dreamed of going to boarding school. My parents really recognised that all of our education could have been better than it was in Dubbo. My mum reached out and found AIEF and then she started the process of applying for me to attend boarding school. I really wanted to go, I couldn’t wait. I thought it was the best thing ever.”

Ellen began boarding at St Vincent’s College on an AIEF Scholarship in Year 9. Her older brother began boarding at Knox Grammar School that same year in Year 11.

“I matured a lot quicker, being away from my parents, and learned some really good life lessons. I made great friends and it was like I had my own little family. When my parents saw how amazing the experience was for us, my younger brothers started at boarding school in Year 7. They loved it and spent their whole high school years at boarding school.”

Ellen completed Year 12 in 2013 and set out on a path to work in healthcare, studying a combined Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Paramedicine at the Australian Catholic University Canberra campus.

“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without going to boarding school and without AIEF. I don’t think I was as focused on school in Dubbo, I don’t think I would have set my goals as high, and I don’t think I could have reached them.”

“I was really sporty, I ended up being soccer captain in Year 12. I just studied hard and worked my way through everything.”

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do until the end of high school when I had to start applying for courses. I worked through all my interests – I did always like caring for my friends and my family, so I guess the passion was there, I just never put it together with nursing or paramedicine. I went to an Open Day at university and it just clicked, I thought ‘Yes, that’s the course for me.’”

In her third year of study, Ellen applied for one of the inaugural AIEF Tertiary Scholarships.

“I had so many more expenses that I thought. It literally came at the perfect time every month, to help with something that I needed. It mostly went toward textbooks, because they’re so expensive, or just other living expenses.”

“It’s important to take every chance. Use every support network possible. I really leant on the Indigenous group at university, that support network was really good while being away and having a heavy study load. My advice is to take every opportunity and make sure you’re supported well.”

“Both my parents finished school, but no one in my family has ever gone to university. It was extremely important for my parents that we finished Year 12 to the best of our abilities. We’ve all turned out better for it.”

In 2018, Ellen became the first Indigenous student to graduate from paramedicine at the ACU campus in Canberra.

“I am the first one to graduate from university and now my younger brother is halfway through his Optometry degree, my youngest brother just started at UNSW and my oldest brother is working for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. We’ve turned out pretty good!”

Long-term, Ellen hopes to work as a paramedic in rural Australia.

“I’ve been offered a job in London as a paramedic, but I’m still considering my options. I’m also looking at paramedic jobs here. I would like to stay in Australia and after my initial graduate year I want get out to the country.”

“It may seem like a small thing to someone else, but an education can be something massive to someone who never really got that opportunity. An AIEF Scholarship really does change someone’s future, it creates the opportunities and goals that they need to change their whole life.”

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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

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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.