More than 530 business, media and community leaders from the Gold Coast and across Australia gathered at Bond University on Friday (November 11) to help raise more than $350,000 to educate young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The Bond University Indigenous Gala, which has now raised more than $1.35 million since its inception in 2010, is an annual celebration of Indigenous culture, featuring high profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, entertainers and past and present Bond Indigenous students.
The 2016 event was officially opened with a musical performance by Jeremy Donovan, a highly respected member of the Indigenous community and Managing Director of Walking With Wisdom.
Mr Donovan shared emceeing duties with 18-year-old Jordan Kilcoyne, one of last year's recipients of the Bond Indigenous Scholarship.
Iconic country singer Troy Cassar-Daley was the keynote speaker and headline act, captivating the audience as he spoke of life growing up in Grafton and his journey to becoming one of the country's most respected musicians. He closed the night with an energetic performance of his original tracks mixed with classics by Johnny Cash and John Denver.
The event's patron, Dr Patrick Corrigan AM, made a touching address to the audience - which included the Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy The Hon Leeanne Enoch MP and Mayor of Lockhart Wayne Butcher - about the importance of the Indigenous Gala, which raises money to support Bond's Indigenous Scholarship Program.
In addition to the funds raised by the annual event, Bond University has invested further millions into the program since 2010, providing full scholarships to 46 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to complete their undergraduate degree or diploma at Bond University, Australia's first and only independent, non-profit university.
Bond University Pro Vice Chancellor, Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan, said the Bond Indigenous Gala served as both a major fundraising exercise and an opportunity to promote Indigenous culture to the wider student and corporate community.
"Once again we are humbled by the community's overwhelming generosity and dedication to improving Indigenous education outcomes," she said.
"The money raised not only creates opportunities for Indigenous students to gain a university qualification, but it also helps to provide mentoring and support through the Nyombil Centre to ensure our Indigenous students develop the confidence and skills needed to lead the next generation of Australians.
"Initiatives like the Nyombil Centre play a huge role for our Indigenous students and contribute greatly to Bond's Indigenous retention rate, which is the highest in the country at 96 per cent, well ahead of the national average of 71 per cent.
"Unfortunately retention rates are only one part of the picture, and the sad truth is that there is still an enormous disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student enrolments in tertiary education.
"Bond is committed to addressing this issue by ensuring Indigenous young people are provided with life-changing higher education opportunities, which will in turn help to 'close the gap' between Indigenous Australians and their non-Indigenous peers."
As emcee, Mr Kilcoyne spoke of the positive impact the scholarship had upon his life and his family and talked of how important it had been to meet successful Indigenous professionals through the Nyombil Centre.
"Growing up in Townsville, I didn't really have any Indigenous role models, apart from football players," he said.
"I told myself I just had to be my own role model - I was the first in my family to get a scholarship to go to a private school and the first one to go to university.
"But here at Bond, I am meeting Indigenous people who are making a difference in business, law, health and other areas.
"It motivates me to follow in their footsteps, knowing that I can aim to be that successful as well.
"I would like to thank everybody who has supported the Bond Indigenous Scholarship Program and for giving me the opportunity to make a difference."
The Bond Indigenous Gala included silent and live auctions which featured two original artworks from high-profile Indigenous artist, Tommy Watson, and luxury holidays in Mexico and Italy.
The night was also attended by Lois Peeler - original member of 'The Sapphires' and Principal of Worawa College; Councillor Hermann Vorster; high-profile lawyer Tony Hickey; and Gold Coast Suns Indigenous player Jarrod Harbrow.