Bond University’s award-winning Yarning Up program is an invaluable initiative that allows our partners and potential partners to experience first-hand the impact that their support can have on Indigenous communities and most importantly individuals like Maya Johnson.
Maya’s life changing story started when St Patrick’s College Townsville Principal, Paulina Skerman visited the Torres Strait Islands as part of the 2015 Yarning Up cohort.
Ms Skerman then selected a group of her students to travel down to the Gold Coast for that year’s Indigenous Gala at Bond University.
Among her group of wide-eyed teenage girls from Far North Queensland was 15-year-old Maya who, in Year 10, was just starting to think about her career options.
“The Indigenous Gala was totally amazing,” said Maya.
“We saw Christine Anu singing on stage and sharing her story; and one of the Indigenous students was co-hosting the Gala and talking about how her Bond scholarship had changed her life.”
Fast forward almost four years and it’s Maya who is now inspiring high schoolers to dream bigger dreams.
Since receiving a Bond Indigenous Scholarship in 2018, she has taken advantage of every opportunity: serving as President of the Student Society for Indigenous Awareness, Treasurer for the Journalism Students’ Society, and an intern with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
“The internship involves helping to organise the five AIME program days we host on campus each year, as well as going into the local high schools to tutor Indigenous students,” said Maya.
“The message I really try to pass on is about the opportunities that will be available to them if they finish Year 12 and go to university or study for a trade.
“It’s really about helping them to believe in themselves and realise how much potential they have.”
Maya’s realisation of her own potential has been an ongoing process since she left the idyllic, family-centric surrounds of Magnetic Island at the end of primary school to board on the mainland at St Patrick’s College.
“As the traditional owners on Magnetic Island, everyone knew who we were and we were just part of the wider community; colour was never an issue.
“But, at St Pat’s, I met girls from remote Cape York communities and villages in Papua New Guinea and islands in the Torres Strait - places that I’d never heard of.
"After the lights would go out, we’d sit around sharing our stories."
Armed with the knowledge she has gleaned from those shared stories of life in Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities, Maya has set her sights on a global career.
She has already completed work experience rotations with ABC Radio and NITV and, in July this year, travelled to Osaka to be part of the Japan English Model United Nations Conference.
“I was part of the journalism digital stimulation team, pairing up with other student journalists to collaborate, explore, engage and create digital and traditional media content for the conference,” she said.
“The trip also involved a 10-day study tour across Japan where we learnt about the language, culture and history.”
The next step after her Bachelor of Journalism will be a Master of Arts, which Maya hopes will lead to work as a foreign correspondent.
“One of the things I realised from those late night storytelling sessions in high school was that a lot of young people don’t have the opportunity to reach their potential simply because they live in remote communities without access to good jobs that offer a career path,” she said.
“Ultimately, one of the main reasons I decided to study journalism was so that I could be their voice.”