By Jessica Borten
Kimberley Bernard always wanted to be a journalist but didn’t count on being in the news herself when her house burned down during her last semester.
Despite the trauma, the Communications student graduated Valedictorian of her faculty and landed her dream job at ABC Gold Coast.
“Friday (night) of week two last semester we woke to our house on fire at 2am,” Ms Bernard said.
“Our neighbour’s house was engulfed in flames and it had jumped the fence to us. It was the most horrifying moment of my life.
“Everyone escaped and there were no fatal injuries but our unit was unliveable and we lost some of our furniture.
“(For three weeks) we were dealing with legalities, real estate, insurance, emotional trauma, and living between our families’ houses in Brisbane.”
Miss Bernard said she would not have graduated without the support of her lecturers and peers.
“The people at Bond became a community I could rely on, a community who cared about me, and who wanted nothing more than to see me succeed.”
Ms Bernard began her journey at Bond University as a mature age student in 2019 almost a decade after graduating from high school.
“When I graduated high school in 2010 I decided to go to university to study a Bachelor of Creative and Professional Writing but I only lasted a semester because I wanted to travel instead,” Ms Bernard said.
“I got a job in finance, had a diverse career for nine years and travelled around the world.
“In 2018 I moved to (New Zealand) on a job contract and as I was sitting in my office staring out at the Remarkables (in Queenstown) it dawned on me how unremarkable I felt.
“You can live a thrilling, adventurous life like I had, but for me, my daily grind needed to also be thrilling and purposeful, so I moved home to the Gold Coast and enrolled at Bond.
“It was so scary leaving my established career but I knew I was taking the right step.”
Ms Bernard said she landed a temporary role at ABC Gold Coast after completing an internship in her last semester.
“With a bit of hard work and a lot of luck, I landed a two-month backfill contract on the day my internship ended,” she said.
“I am a news reporter who primarily gathers and writes news for radio, digital and TV.
“I attend a lot of events, dig deep into current affairs, and basically try to make heads or tails of local community issues.”
As well as Valedictorian, the New Colombo Plan Scholar was also recipient of the John Hardy Achievement Medal.
The award recognises the student with the highest academic achievement in the Faculty of Society and Design.
Ms Bernard said she was surprised at her academic performance and accomplishments.
“I didn’t necessarily excel in school all those years ago so when I realised I was actually good at doing what I loved, I found joy in pushing myself to do well,” she said.
“I really am surprised by how well I did or, maybe more accurately, I have surprised myself with how disciplined I’ve been and how much I’ve enjoyed (studying).”
Ms Bernard said the highlight of her time at university was travelling to the Solomon Islands in her second semester where she researched climate impacts facing small towns.
“The (New Colombo Plan) scholarship allowed me to go to a small island in the southern archipelago of the Solomon Islands to do a project of my own choice,” Ms Bernard said.
“Going to the Solomon Islands turned my world upside down and really drove my passion for important storytelling and gave me a type of confidence I’d never had before.
“I got to interview with the provincial government, snorkel on the warming reefs, and survey logging sites. I’ll remember that experience for the rest of my life.”
Ms Bernard said the experience shaped her career goals and she now aspired to make a difference in the world.
“I want a career in which I can make a positive change to people’s lives and the natural world around us.
“I’m a passionate environmentalist with a long history campaigning for the ocean, shark education and marine debris, so I’d love to throw some of those passions into the mix.
“I’d love to come back to Bond to do a masters or PhD. I know I am not done with academia just yet, there’s still something in me that is hungry to learn more.”