Becki Cook, Griffith University

“I think if you’re thinking about coming to university, just go for it. There’s so many opportunities and people here to help or paths you can go down if you take that first step.”

Becki is a Nunukul woman of the Quandamooka people of Minjerribah, or Stradbroke Island.

She was the first in her family to go to university. Her Mum received a high school education up until year 10, while her Dad finished school at year 7.

Knowing that her parents and grandparents weren’t given the same educational opportunities she had, she wanted to go to university to make her family proud.

“University has given me opportunities that my parents didn’t have,” Becki says.

Having completed a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Education at Griffith University, she’s now studying for her Master of Education and Professional Studies Research. She researches how students interact with specialist Indigenous Education Centres like GUMURRII.

Liam Birch, Griffith University

“To a young Torres Strait Islander my advice would be to take the risk and take the leap towards uni.”

Liam is from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. He is currently in his second-year studying a Bachelor of Business.

Going to uni was something his family always wanted for him and early on, he knew business studies was the right subject for him. The first year of uni had some steep learning curves but he made friends, put his work first and ended up having the time of his life.

“One day I hope to see more Torres Strait Islanders coming to uni and successfully graduating and hopefully one day even returning to home and returning to their community where they’re from,” Liam says.

“So many opportunities have opened up for me and that I would never thought would be possible.”

In 2019, he completed an internship in Melbourne as part of his studies.

Shahnaz Rind, Deakin University

“I would say to our young people: give it a go. There are always opportunities, just take them.”

Shahnaz is a Yamatji woman from north-west Western Australia who moved to Melbourne for her final years of high school.

After seeing her grandmother lose limbs to debilitating diabetes, she knew she wanted to help others. She has now completed a Bachelor of Nursing at Deakin University.

“My mum… and dad always said, go to university, go to school, finish school. That’s one of the main reasons why we moved [to Melbourne], to focus on schooling,” Shahnaz says.

“Cause [my parents] didn’t have that opportunity. They had culture, which was strong, they taught us culture. But they said education is the key.”

She is now working as a project officer at the Youth Affairs Council Victoria working with Indigenous young people across the state. She’s also keen on further studies and is now working towards another degree in optometry.

Her message to prospective students on the challenge of studying at uni: “our people have been resilient for 60,000 years plus. Keep going.”

Tim Goodwin, The Australian National University

“Believe in yourself. Apply. Go for it.”

Tim is a Yuin man from south-coast NSW who completed his high school years in Canberra and then law at The Australian National University.

His grandfather grew up on a mission at Wallaga Lake, and once he met Tim’s grandmother, they raised their family on mission too. Both his parents left school at 14.

Today he is a barrister in Melbourne. He says being first in your family to go to university can be a real burden for young Indigenous students.

“You’re not only carrying the pressure that you yourself put on you but you’re carrying that pressure from your family and your community,” Tim says.

“There is so much potential in unlocking the power of Indigenous knowledge. The opportunities that come from attending university are both personal and professional.”