IN 1985, I started a bachelor’s degree the month I turned seventeen. Despite a change of degree from social work to arts, I graduated from the University of Queensland with publication and research experience at twenty and became a permanent policy research officer in the Australian Public Service by twenty-one. In four years I had gone from a country Queensland school leaver to a public servant in the head office of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, producing research reports with strategic and operational impact on its accommodation and support services.
I can attribute my commitment to education to my mother, a sole parent who raised four daughters into what became the first generation of her family to enter professions. Despite high levels of family motivation, becoming the first siblings in an extended family to finish Year 12 and go to university required more than straightforward personal ambition. Until the 1950s, Indigenous students had been excluded from universities, and by 1980 no Indigenous student had successfully completed a PhD. In my case, and for many of the subsequent generations of Indigenous university graduates, what used to be called ‘special entry conditions’ paved the path to university entry.
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