ONE of the few residential university colleges to remain open throughout the duration of the pandemic, Shalom College at the University of NSW (UNSW) was able to welcome its largest new cohort of Indigenous students this term.
Thanks to the ongoing generosity of donors to the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Scholarship Program, five new students settled in, bringing the total number of Indigenous students currently residing at Shalom to 28.
Six of them are on track to graduate by the end of this year, with degrees in law and medicine.
The five new scholarship holders come from as far apart as Dubbo and Cairns.
Carlos Brennan (pictured) is commencing a commerce/economics degree, Andrew Perish and Elliott MacQueen are studying law, Kane Jenner has chosen medicine, and Shelby Robertson has begun a teaching course.
MacQueen is conscious of Aboriginal people being under-represented in the legal profession, particularly in legal teaching and research.
He said upon graduating in law, he “would like to offer our people strong representation, as someone who understands the decision-making processes that concern, and affect, our community”.
Robertson said, “To think of graduating with a degree in secondary education with the help of the Gamarada scholarship, fills me with a sense of pride, as I will be able to return to my small town and help other Indigenous children.”
Until this point, Brennan’s life has lacked stability, as he has had to move house more than 14 times.
As such, he said, “I really value having a sense of community, and I am so grateful to finally have this at Shalom.”
With a dream of becoming a doctor since he was in high school, Jenner said his scholarship granted by Shalom Gamarada “means a great deal not only to me, but to those around me”.
“[Graduating at UNSW] would show other disadvantaged people like myself that it is possible to rise above the conditions that you were born into.”
Meanwhile, sixth year medicine student and Shalom Gamarada scholarship holder Kyall Flakelar – who won an academic excellence award last year – is a Wiradjuri man originally from Narromine.
In a beautiful, “full circle” milestone, he completed his course’s elective placement at the start of autumn at Awabakal Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service Centre in Newcastle, under the direction of Dr Dean Wright, who had been a GP in Narromine for 25 years, and was actually the on-call doctor at the time of Flakelar’s birth.
Flakelar said he aims to return to the Dubbo/Narromine area to begin his career.
For more information about the program, visit shalomgamarada.org