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Graduating Indigenous students told to ‘dream big’ and ‘keep achieving’

Graduation day: QATSIF students arriving at the 2019 QUT graduation.

“DREAM big” and work hard to achieve your goals, this was the message 2019 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation graduates heard from much-loved patron Aunty Ruth Hegarty.

“If you fall down, you get up and you continue to go on,” she told them.

QATSIF secretariat director Michael Nayler said Aunty Ruth’s words reached the young people and challenged them to strive.

“Keep going, keep achieving,” he said.

“I think that’s a pretty powerful message for young people.”

Each year thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across Queensland’s schools are supported by QATSIF and this coming year will be the biggest yet.

Over the next two years, $3 million will support more than 3000 students.

In 2020, 1653 Year 11 students will receive a QATSIF scholarship along with more than 1400 Year 12 students.

Among the newcomers to the scholarships were 349 Year 11 students from 75 Catholic schools, supported by $660,000 in scholarship funds.

Mr Nayler said each year he looked forward to reading letters from students about how the scholarships helped them.

Sometimes it was as simple as being able to afford uniforms or shoes, he said.

“For a lot of students it’s just about the opportunity to do a course, a TAFE course or a vocational education course that they couldn’t otherwise afford to do,” he said.

“A lot of subjects have a fee or levy that goes with them and for students that are struggling, they struggle to afford those fees or levies. 

“Sadly, some of our schools – not necessarily our Catholic schools – if you don’t have the money to do a vocational education or training course, you simply can’t do it. 

“For many kids, it’s the opportunity to do the courses they want to do.”

He said he and everyone at QATSIF was proud to support those young people into the future.

The graduations themselves were always wonderful events, Mr Nayler said.

He said the graduations were largely student-led because QATSIF wanted to show off the leadership abilities of their graduates. 

Among this year’s 900 graduates were 187 students who held leadership positions in their school communities including 22 school captains and 12 vice-captains. 

There were also many cultural and sporting talents among this year’s graduates.

Mr Nayler urged any students going into Year 10 next year to talk with their schools about applying for a QATSIF scholarship mid next year.

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