Sharnie Roberts, a Widjabul woman from Lismore, is in the final year of a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in Behavioural Management and Psychology.
Supporters of Bond University’s Indigenous education program have gathered to mark the successful graduation of 30 students, all of who have gone on to employment or further study.
Sharnie Roberts hopes to join them soon. Ms Roberts, a Widjabul woman from Lismore, is in the final year of a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in Behavioural Management and Psychology.
Ms Roberts told those attending the Indigenous Program Appreciation Lunch she was on track to become the first person in her family to obtain a university degree despite roadblocks along the way.
“My grandmother was denied a higher-level education,” she said.
“Even in my mother's generation, academic role models were foreign figures.
“I attended a university expo at high school and I can still remember my food technology teacher telling me there was no point in me going because I wouldn't be going to university.”
Ms Roberts became a youth worker but persisted with study, gaining several certificate-level qualifications.
She said she started to understand her purpose and passion while working in the child protection system, and enrolled at Bond University.
“I knew that to reach this professional career it required a higher level of education,” Ms Roberts said.
“(At Bond) I have discovered an interest in psychological trauma and I'm passionate about making changes in the lives of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.
“Indigenous scholarships go beyond accelerating our careers. It enables us to give back to our communities.”
Bond University Indigenous Engagement Advisor Narelle Urquhart said it had been a year of achievements despite the pandemic.
The University celebrated its first Indigenous medicine graduates, provided two new medicine scholarships with support from The Optical Superstore, and began recruitment of two more First Nations health experts.
The University’s most senior Indigenous educator is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Keitha Dunstan who has Mandandanji ancestry.
Bond University Indigenous ambassador Jeremy Donovan said education was the key to overcoming “the racism of low expectations”.
“Education is the cornerstone of building the capacity of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country,” he said.
“Culture is not a cape - we can’t take it off.
“Education is a spear that we will carry - another tool that enables us to compete above and beyond anything I could have dreamt of.”
Artist Katrina Graves, a Wiradjuri woman, painted a piece during the lunch which was raffled.
Twelve Indigenous scholars will embark on studies at Bond University next year.
The university has graduated 154 Indigenous students in the past eight years.