Education trailblazer Waverley Stanley told the recent Bond University Indigenous Gala that Australia will have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander prime minister in his lifetime.
That predicted breakthrough will be down to greater education opportunities provided to First Nations people by universities such as Bond University, Mr Stanley said.
The gala on Friday November 8, raised more than $420,000 to support the education of Indigenous students, bringing to more than $2.5 million the amount raised over the 10-year history of the event.
Mr Stanley, the keynote speaker at the sold-out gala, is Founding Director of the not-for-profit Yalari organisation that places Indigenous students at some of Australia's best boarding schools.
"As true as I'm standing here tonight, I know before I die I will see the first Indigenous prime minister of this country," Mr Stanley said.
"That person might be sitting in this room tonight. They might be a Bond graduate."
But Mr Stanley also laid out the challenges that mean just 40 per cent of Indigenous students attending university go on to complete their degrees, compared to 75 per cent for non-Indigenous students.
"There are many reasons for this," he said. "Many Indigenous students are still the first in their family to attend university, so family support can be limited.
"There's also the strain and stress of being thousands of kilometres away from home."
Bond University Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Tim Brailsford, said this was why the university’s Nyombil Indigenous Support Centre was so critical to the success of Bond students.
Indigenous students have completed 150 programs at Bond since the centre opened in 2012 and their course completion rate is double the national average.
Prof Brailsford said the success of the gala would allow the university to offer an additional 10 scholarships to Indigenous students in 2020, including two in medicine.
"When I look back to that very first dinner that was held to raise funds to support Indigenous students, there were just 50 people in attendance," Prof Brailsford said.
"We have sold more than 500 tickets here tonight."
Among the current cohort of Indigenous students studying at Bond is Jondayah Martin from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
Ms Martin told the crowd her childhood friend showed equal promise at school but did not graduate.
"She faced many challenges that Indigenous youth continue to face in remote communities, stemming from a lack of education, unemployment and past traumas," she said.
Through Mr Stanley's Yalari, Ms Martin went to boarding school in Brisbane, then secured a scholarship at Bond where she is studying Communication and has received a Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence.
“The opportunities that I have been blessed with have come at the sacrifice and love of my family, friends, community and the teams from Yalari and Bond," she said.
Guests at the gala included its patron, the freight entrepreneur and arts benefactor Dr Patrick Corrigan AM and leaders from remote communities including Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher.
Entertainment was provided by the Wagga Torres Strait Island Dance Company and The Jacks Band, who performed the Helpmann Award-winning Spirit of Churaki production at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
An auction of donated Indigenous art helped drive the fundraising, with auctioneer Andrew Webber knocking down one piece by Lockhart River artist Rosella Namok for $20,000.
Bond University is proud to be a member of the national Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) community joining over 1,000 dedicated corporate, government and not-for-profit organisations across the nation who are committed to reconciliation through the RAP program.