Meet the faces of UQ Giving Day 2021

Olivia, Cameron and Appolonia

Olivia, Cameron and Appolonia

This Giving Day, we’re celebrating the power of diversity: with more unique and courageous voices, we have a richer story to tell.

These are the next generation of ChangeMakers, and through scholarships, we can bring more of them to UQ.

Meet Appolonia, Cameron and Oliva, who are sharing their story this Giving Day to inspire people to support students like them.

Watch the video.

Blurred student heads walking through the Great Court at UQ's St Lucia campus, including the iconic sandstone pillars carved with various images.

Students in UQ's iconic Great Court

Students in UQ's iconic Great Court

Appolonia

Young Achievers Program
Bachelor of Business Management/Education (Secondary) student


Appolonia

Did you always want to go to university?

University wasn’t something I seriously considered until Year 9 or 10. You know how when you’re growing up, you want to be all these different things, but you start to eliminate them as you realise what’s realistic and what’s not? For me, university felt like the latter.

In Year 9, I watched a documentary about how children – particularly young girls – in other countries didn’t have access to education. It shocked me to imagine not having the opportunity to go to school and empower myself through education, and I became increasingly grateful for the education I was receiving. This sparked my passion for education, specifically educational inequality, and a passion for lifelong learning. It inspired me to think about becoming a teacher’s aide.

I’d never thought seriously about attending university, as I perceived it as a place for people who were rich and smart – not someone like me. But after I was accepted into the Young Achievers Program, I started to believe in myself more, because I knew there were other people out there who believed in me too. I thought: if I could become a teacher’s aide, why couldn’t I become the teacher? Maybe I’m good enough to go to university?

It turns out I was good enough, and I am now the first person in my family to both graduate high school and go on to study at university.


What does the Young Achievers Program mean to you?

The Young Achievers Program means a lot to me. Financially, it has made a huge difference in my life – I went through high school without having a laptop or internet at home, and that put me at a disadvantage to everyone else at my school. With my scholarship, I could buy internet and a laptop, and I didn’t have to struggle as hard to get work done.

It’s important to also emphasise that scholarships offer support beyond just the financial aspect. If I didn’t have the Young Achievers Program to motivate me, I may have never come to university. My scholarship is a reminder of how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked. I’m so grateful to have it in the first place that I don’t want to give it up.

I don’t feel like I’d be the person I am today without the Young Achievers Program. The experience I had at the residential camps has grown my confidence, and through the MAD (Making a Difference) Challenges we did in high school, I started volunteering in my local community. Without the MAD Challenges, I would have never realised how rewarding volunteering is, and now I take every opportunity I can to get involved and help out.


What has your experience been with volunteering?

I started volunteering at Vinnies in Year 11 after I got into the Young Achievers Program, and I volunteered there for about nine months. In 2020, I accepted a Year 12 environment and sustainability leadership position at school. I was really excited to present on school assemblies, but when COVID-19 hit, assemblies were cancelled. I needed to find something I could do by myself that would still have an impact.

Every week during high school I would ride my electric scooter to work and I would see all this rubbish within my local bush area and on the side of the road. That didn’t sit right with me, so I decide to start cleaning up the rubbish for both my local community and the wildlife that lived there.

Since starting university, I have realised how many opportunities UQ has to offer and have eagerly been involved in as much as I can. I have recently been accepted as a mentor for the next cohort of the Young Achievers Program. It is a big commitment, but I am so excited for everything that awaits.

A girl in blue jeans and a black shirt stands behind a white photography background with her hands in her pockets. You can see the sandstone arches of the Great Court behind her, as well as the lawn.

Appolonia

Appolonia

The columned façade of the grand Mayne Medical School at Herston, Brisbane. The first level is a pale cream brick, and the second level is red brick. Even rows of windows line each floor. Students are walking up the front stairs.

The Mayne Medical School at UQ's Herston campus

The Mayne Medical School at UQ's Herston campus

And Indigenous man in a blue polo shirt and cargo shorts stands in front of a white photography background held up by black stands. You can see the sandstone arches of the Great Court behind him and he is standing on lawn.

Cameron

Cameron

Cameron

Fiona Kennedy Memorial Scholarship
Bachelor of Health Sciences student


Cameron

What was your journey to university?

I grew up in the Gulf of Carpentaria. While I had adverse childhood experiences, I also had strong pillars of belief: I had a great-grandmother who told me I was magic, a grandmother who kept me safe, and an uncle who told me that there’s opportunity out there. These pillars are what I always come back to. Even when the world attacked them, they remained sturdy, because they were built in a really authentic, natural, benevolent way.

And the world did attack them. At nineteen, I was wrongly convicted and spent three months in prison. I had no criminal record and it was a minor charge, but I’ll never forget the magistrate saying to me: it’s people like you who become menaces to society. I got out with the help of a Senior Counsel; we went to the Supreme Court and my record was expunged, and legally, it never happened. But I still experienced it.

I was homeless for five years at another point in my life. I remember thinking: you can either die from this, or you can learn something. My Aboriginality means I see problems like that: what is this trying to teach me? So, I chose to learn from it.

I came to medicine after a successful career in the music industry, both as a performer and behind-the-scenes, but I decided to leave that career behind because it didn’t fit with who I wanted to be. I found a passion for medicine when I was getting surgery on my shoulder. I had this great orthopaedic surgeon, and I remember looking at his hands and thinking: he’s trained for years, and now he has magic hands. He puts his hands inside people’s bodies and he fixes them. And I thought, I want to do that. 


What role has music played in your life?

I don’t think I could be the person I am if it wasn’t for music. Music went hand-in-hand with openness to experience, because it allowed me to create a world in my mind that I wanted to live in.

When I started out in Brisbane, nobody would give me a crack – they’d say, no one wants to hear rap, and especially not Aboriginal rap. But I’d come back every day until someone gave me a chance. I knew that people could look past preconceptions if they saw the product was good.

Through hard work and innovation, I worked my way up through the industry. I made my way into the ‘holy grail’ room, where I’d work with people like Snoop Dog, Johnny Depp, the Kardashians. And it all came back to what my family told me – you’re magic. There’s opportunity out there.

I decided to leave music because I had a moment where I realised I was off-track from who I was. That life was great, but it was lonely. It was very Western capitalistic: it was all about hoarding resources, not sharing them, and I was uncomfortable with that.

I loved my time in music, but I left it because I wanted to gain a skill to be of benefit to humanity rather than hoarding. I think that’s something I can do through medicine.


What do you hope to do with your education?

I know that with my education, I have an opportunity to do great things – that’s why I study 14 hours a day. I’m using the UQ platform and learning environment to have an experience that I’m going to look back on and be happy with. I really get thrills out of gaining knowledge at UQ I can implement out there in society, but also within myself.

Alongside my studies to become a trauma surgeon, I’m also currently working with Professor Andrew Fairbairn in the School of Social Science on a Student-Staff Partnership. In this project, we’re designing a course for 2022 that will be offered in UQ Archaeology studies called Keeping Country.

My goal and one of the reasons why I’m doing the Student-Staff Partnership outside of my faculty is to highlight areas in society which I believe Indigenous peoples perceive as hostile. Because when an Indigenous person perceives an environment as hostile, they’ll have nothing to do with it. With my story and what I’ve experienced, I can articulate what’s going on when this happens, and I can help change things.

An aerial view of two students sitting at a desk reading through books. There is an iPad on the table.

Students studying in the TC Beirne School of Law. The School was originally funded by a gift by Brisbane businessman TC Beirne. The most recent refurbishment in 2017 was also the result of a successful philanthropic campaign.

Students studying in the TC Beirne School of Law. The School was originally funded by a gift by Brisbane businessman TC Beirne. The most recent refurbishment in 2017 was also the result of a successful philanthropic campaign.

Olivia

Young Achievers Program
Bachelor of Laws (Honours) student


Olivia

What do you aspire to do after graduation?

When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher, but I changed my mind once I was in high school. I thought then I could be an engineer, as I was really enjoying maths at the time. But I started Maths C, and it was definitely not for me – imaginary numbers? What even is that?

I was also doing legal studies at the time and I enjoyed that, so I decided I wanted to go into law. It worked out perfectly, because I was part of the Young Achievers Program, and I knew UQ was a really great university for law.

I’d like to work as a legal aid after my studies to help disadvantaged people in the community access legal services. If I don’t go down that route, I’d love to have a portion of pro bono work. I’m not in law to make a lot of money – I’m in it to help people access legal services who can’t afford it, because it’s so expensive. In one of my courses, we learned that lots of people go unrepresented in the criminal justice system as they can't afford legal support. I’d like to be able to give help to people like that.


What difference did your scholarship make?

I’d never thought of taking any other route than university, but the issue was how I actually got there. Receiving my scholarship made a huge difference. One of the first things I bought was a laptop for high school, because my parents couldn’t afford to. I grew up in a town called Esk, which is about an hour and 15 minutes from the St Lucia campus, so my scholarship also helped me purchase a car to drive to campus and back home to see my family. It’s made a huge difference to my university experience, as it’s helped me not worry about finances while I’m studying – uni is already stressful enough!

I found the Young Achievers Program really helpful in Years 11 and 12. Pre-COVID, it was great to go on the residential camps at St Lucia and explore the university before we actually got there, as well as talk to our mentors, who were already studying at UQ. Our mentors helped us with everything on our path to UQ – it would have been hard without them. It made the whole process less daunting.


What’s your message to people on why scholarships are important?

There are a lot of kids in the state – or even the country – who live in rural or regional areas or are financially disadvantaged, through no fault of their own. They’re really intelligent and gifted, but they just don’t have the means to get to university to harness those talents.

Scholarships are how we give those kids a chance. They have such a positive effect, because those people are then trained and are qualified professionals who can give back to their communities and their families. Scholarships have such a big impact beyond the individual, and I think not everyone realises that.

A girl in a grey shirt and black pants stands smiling in front of a white photography background. You can see the sandstone arches of the Great Court behind her. She is standing on green lawn.

Olivia

Olivia

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