Believing it's possible
Good afternoon. Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Turrbal and Yuggera People and pay my respects to our Elders past, present and emerging.
I would also like to acknowledge distinguished guests, chairman Yvonne Le Bas, and the Board of The Ireland Funds Australia for inviting me to join you this afternoon. It is a true honour to put faces to the names of the people who have contributed so much, to not only the future of so many AIEF students, but also to my own life.
You see, before recently becoming an AIEF Pathways Advisor, I was one of 25 secondary students who graduated in 2011 on an AIEF Scholarship, thus becoming the third round of Alumni to go through the program. You could say, I’m a bit of an old scholar when it comes to the AIEF Alumni.
My journey with AIEF has been one that definitely proves the theory, “if a friendship lasts longer than seven years, it will last lifetime.” Because that’s exactly how I see not only Andrew and Michelle Penfold, but every single staff member I’ve had the pleasure of meeting since 2010. But I will share a bit more about that later.
I am a proud Bindal Birri Gubba woman and was born in Rockhampton but later moved to Bowen when I was 12. Growing up, education was always important, as was netball. This meant I travelled a lot to compete and when I was 15, I learnt about AIEF Scholarships through St Peters Lutheran College here in Brisbane. My application was successful and I started boarding there in Year 11. My scholarship supported me to get a great education and moving to Brisbane opened up countless opportunities in netball. But this was something my parents appreciated more than I did at first.
It was during a Learn, Earn, Legend! experience at Parliament House in Canberra in 2010 that I started to realise the value of AIEF. Their passion to see young Indigenous people succeed was obvious in the experiences they enabled us to have. These experiences opened our eyes to different avenues and pathways that we had never dreamed of believing possible.
There was another significant moment after I left school where I vividly remember thinking to myself, “I am so glad I have AIEF.” It was 2 July, 2014 and I was in a rut – both with my studies and with my netball career. It just was not panning out to be what I had planned since graduating high school. I was working as a casual junior boarding supervisor at St Peters and loving it, but I wasn’t achieving goals in my personal life. So I went to the people I knew I could count on for practical guidance – AIEF.
I still have the Facebook messages and emails that I sent to my Alumni Advisor at the time, Carlos, about not being happy and whether he could help me figure out what to do. No word of a lie, within two weeks Carlos had sent me links to scholarship options for universities, accommodation links while studying, Centrelink information for ABSTUDY… you name it. Not to mention providing moral support and ideas around how to deal with my netball dilemma and not being hard on myself for wanting to prioritise study over sport if need be. This for me was huge. I knew I had support from my family and friends, but to know that I had that little extra care for the specific things I needed in my own life was a God send. Within the year, I had enrolled full-time at the University of Queensland to study a Bachelor of Human Services and had landed a scholarship with Emmanuel College on campus, as well as maintaining my position in the Elite Development Squad for Netball Queensland.
Over time, my friendship with AIEF has been one of growing and learning. They have watched and helped me grow through so many of life’s challenges: from graduating high school, to living at Emmanuel College while I studied, to finally graduating university last year.
I would like to share my gratitude and thanks for the partnership that was made between AIEF and The Ireland Funds Australia all those years ago. It is because of your ongoing support that AIEF has been able to put more students through school and deepen their reach, offering the Pathways Program which supports students, mentors and alumni. AIEF exists to help empower the young Indigenous youth of today to not only realise and achieve their own dreams, but exceed them one hundred fold.