THE latest Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation scholarship recipients represent a generation of hope, being the largest Year 11 cohort – 1416 students – to go through the foundation.
More than 250 students, parents, staff and community members, from 30 schools across the state, gathered at Australian Catholic University McAuley Campus, Banyo for the first of two QATSIF new recipients’ celebrations.
QATSIF secretariat director Michael Nayler said the event was great chance to encourage the recipients to stick at it.
He said while the money was a great help towards things like fees or uniforms, there was something bigger that made QATSIF so great.
“There’s a whole understanding of where this money comes from, this history of the stolen wages,” he said.
“That young people understand the elders and ancestors worked really hard and didn’t have the opportunities they have now, and it’s something that builds young people up to achieve and do their best.”
QATSIF committed about $2.6 million dollars to the 1416 students, which is about $1000 per year of their senior studies.
And the good news continued through to the Year 12 cohort for 2019 too.
Mr Nayler said the numbers of school leaders this year was impressive.
“We have 170 kids who have received leadership positions in the schools around the state, (and) there’s only 949 QATSIF kids in Year 12 this year,” he said.
“We’ve got 20 school captains and 11 vice school captains around the state, it’s just amazing – it’s bloody awesome.
“The world’s changing, it’s better and better all the time.”
In Queensland only around 71 per cent of Indigenous students complete their senior studies compared with 89.4 per cent of non-Indigenous students.
And while the statistics are generally improving, events like the recipients’ celebration were vital, Mr Nayler said.
He also said the ACU event was a great opportunity to see some of the past graduates – including Samantha Watson, who spoke at the ACU event.
Ms Watson was school captain and received a top OP score, Mr Nayler said.
He said she was “an amazing young woman”.
“It was great seeing that young person get up there and say, look I had some tough times and I had some good times, but I got through,” Mr Nayler said.
“It’s that positive message to young people to get in there, be resilient and achieve all you can.”
The event at ACU was a cultural spectacular.
After the Welcome to Country, the ceremony began with a symbolic lighting of the QATSIF Elders’ candle to recognise the rich cultural heritage which has been passed down since the Dreaming.
Aunty Thersa Nunn from St James College, who has been a long-time supporter of QATSIF, lit the Elders’ candle.
Two performances from the Nguluwa Dhiyaan Aboriginal dancers and the Mabuyag Torres Strait Islander dancers followed, with one of the MCs, Mikayla Adams-Houston from Lourdes Hill College, joining her fellow Nguluwa Dhiyaan dancers.
Eva O’Neill and Ella Udowika from Carmel College read a local poem entitled “The Elder” in tribute to the Elders.
The Public Trustee of Queensland Peter Carne presented badges to QATSIF’s student leaders and joined Ms Watson to present certificates to the new QATSIF scholarship recipients.
Mr Nayler said there were many things that teachers and schools could do to get behind the community effort.
He said symbols played a large role, such as flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
“In Catholic schools, there are obvious symbols, like many of our schools use Aboriginal designs on the Cross,” he said.
“All young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people particularly, need to feel part of the community.”