This year’s Bond University Indigenous Gala has proved an unprecedented success, with more than $277,000 raised in scholarship funds for Indigenous students across Australia to study at Bond University.
The event, on Friday (November 7), was a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and was attended by more than 500 guests and Gold Coast personalities including former Titans captain Scott Prince, producers of 'The Sapphires' movie Rosemary Blight and Ben Grant of Goalpost Pictures, Director of the original stage play Wesley Enoch, and Chairman of Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts and CEO of GenerationOne, Jeremy Donovan, who was also a special performer on the night.
Member for Burleigh, Michael Hart, and Member for Broadwater, Verity Barton, who was representing the Honourable Glen Elmes, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, as well as five City of Gold Coast Councillors and Mayor of Tweed Shire and Mayor of Lockhart River were also in attendance at the fundraising event.
Guest speakers on the night Lois Peeler AM and Laurel Robinson, both original members of 'The Sapphires', captivated the audience as they spoke of their journey and experiences growing up in this country and realising fame as Indigenous singers who travelled to Vietnam during the war to entertain the troops..
The Indigenous Gala has been staged annually at Bond since 2010 and this year the overwhelming support from corporate sponsors and demand for tickets was so high that the original venue sold out, compelling organisers to relocate the event to the University's Sports Hall to accommodate more guests.
Gala organiser and Bond University’s Pro Vice Chancellor, Catherine O’Sullivan, said Bond was strongly committed to addressing the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student enrolments in tertiary education.
She said the Gala highlighted the importance of ensuring Indigenous young people are provided with life-changing higher education opportunities.
“Despite the inroads made in recent years, a significant gap remains between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ higher education outcomes, and currently Indigenous students make up just 1.4 percent of enrolments at Australian universities,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“Our scholarship program not only creates opportunities for Indigenous students to gain a university qualification, but also the leadership skills, confidence and support they need to drive generational change.”
Last year's recipient of the Bond University Indigenous Community Excellence Scholar, Alisha Geary, was MC on the night and spoke of the positive impact that the scholarship had had upon her life and studies.
"I am the first person in my family to attend university, so receiving the Indigenous Scholarship to study at Bond University really changed my life," she said.
"Having grown up between Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands, coming to Bond on the Gold Coast was such a significant and exciting change for me. I have made so many international friends with such diverse cultural backgrounds that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet elsewhere.
"I am currently in my second year of a Bachelor of Laws, and would ideally love to be either a native title, constitutional, environmental or human rights lawyer at the completion of my studies."
Tyus Arndt, a recipient of this year's round of Indigenous Scholarships and lead soloist of the 'I Still Call Australia Home' advertisement for Qantas in 2009, said receiving the scholarship to study a Diploma of Communications at Bond University will help him pursue his dream of working in the screen and media industry post-graduation. NITV who were in the room are already keen to explore an internship for Tyus.
"Receiving the Indigenous Scholarship will help me secure a future in the creative industries, so I can pursue a fulfilling career that enables me to fuse my love of music and media," said Tyus.
"Because Bond University is such a prestigious and well-respected university, completing my studies here will definitely give me an edge over others in what is bound to be a competitive industry."
Tyus wowed the crowd at the Indigenous Gala with his stirring rendition of the Christine Anu song, 'My Island Home', and spoke of how proud his family in the Torres Strait Islands are of his journey so far.
"Receiving the Indigenous scholarship to Bond University has not only had a huge impact upon my life, but also on my family back home in the Torres Strait who are all so excited and proud of my achievements," said Tyus.